Rough sleeping in Waltham Forest jumps by 444%

27 people were sleeping rough each night in Autumn 2022 compared to five in Autumn 2021

Credit: George Standen via Canva

27 people were estimated to be sleeping rough in Waltham Forest on a single given night last autumn, which marks a jump of 22 compared to the previous year, government statistics reveal.

The figures represent a staggering 444% increase from Autumn 2021, when five people were estimated to be sleeping rough on a single night in the borough.

Forest Churches Emergency Night Shelter (FCENS), who have been providing winter shelter and food for people who are homeless in Waltham Forest for the past 15 years, says that it is dealing with 28 active cases of homeless people this November, compared with 10 in November 2022. The charity is expecting to see 180 people use the service during the year April 2023 – March 2024.

The largest increase in the number of people estimated to be sleeping rough in the UK was in London, where there were 858 people this year compared to 640 people last year, an increase of 218 people or 34%.

Nearly half (47%) of all people sleeping rough on a single night in autumn are in London and the South East. According to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, the local authority with the highest number of people sleeping rough on a single night in autumn 2022 was Westminster where 250 people were estimated to be sleeping rough. 

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The total number of rough sleepers counted on a single night in England in November 2022 stands at 3,069 compared to 2,440 for the same period in 2021 which accounts for a rise of 26% or 629 people.  

From 2009 until 2020, FCENS ran a roving communal shelter in seven church venues across the week for people to bed down in church halls, with separate rooms for up to 30 men and women each night. 

Since the pandemic, FCENS has moved to a model that provides individual rooms after a shift in government policy. It has operated an emergency night shelter for the last three winters using contracted hotel provision and is working in partnership with the YMCA on Forest Road in Walthamstow, where 15 rooms are available for emergency shelter during winter months.

David Hoskins, charity director at FCENS commented: “There is a perfect storm in homelessness this winter. With the cost of living, people are struggling to manage the high cost of housing, councils have limited housing stock and are competing for temporary accommodation, which is already full of people in priority need. 

“Thousands of young adults are leaving home office accommodation at very short notice, while the government clears the backlog of asylum applications, adding to the demand for homelessness services. We are seeing a big increase of people rough sleeping.

“The number of emergency beds has reduced and there are not enough beds for everyone who needs them. We need more emergency beds for people who are homeless in Waltham Forest. We are looking for a permanent home to continue this essential work to help people into sustainable housing.”

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