Highest levels of capital’s homeless remain in Westminster, latest stats confirm

By Ben Lynch, Local Democracy Reporter

Westminster had more rough sleepers on any given night in 2023 than any other local authority in the country, with numbers at their highest since before the pandemic.

The council leader said Westminster was spending more than any other authority supporting those arriving in the area, describing the city as ‘a destination for rough sleepers’.

Cllr Adam Hug has called on the Government to ditch its policy of moving asylum seekers out of hotels and hostels after 28 days, which he claimed was exacerbating the issue.

Across England, on a single night in autumn last year, the number of rough sleepers was estimated to be up 27 per cent on 2022, at 3,898.

London saw a larger increase than any other region, with 1,132 people compared to 858 the year before, while Westminster was the local authority with the most rough sleepers, with 277 seen on a single night – an 11 per cent hike.

Housing charity Shelter said the numbers were probably an underestimate, with people in less visible locations often missed.

Westminster’s numbers were the city’s highest since 2019, when 333 people were recorded. This was a high for the local authority, and a significant increase on the 128 in 2010, the earliest year for which data is provided. The Government promised in 2019 it would end rough sleeping by the end of 2024.

Cllr Adam Hug, leader of the Labour administration at Westminster City council, said: “As the centre of London, Westminster is a destination for rough sleepers from both the UK and abroad and we see new faces arriving all the time.

“We spend far more than any other council – £7m a year – to help those arriving here.”

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: “Far from ending rough sleeping, through its own ineffectiveness, the Government has allowed it to more than double on their watch.

“We haven’t built enough social homes in decades, and with rents at a record high, thousands of people are being forced to spend their nights freezing on street corners.”

A spokesman for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) said the Government was giving the London borough £191m through the rough sleeping initiative, providing beds and specialist support services.

“While rough sleeping in London remains below pre-pandemic levels, we know there is still more to do. That is why we continue to work closely with the Mayor and councils to help as many people as possible off the streets and help them turn their lives around.”

The DLUHC previously said the Government was committed to “preventing homelessness before it occurs”.

“We are giving councils over £1bn through the Homelessness Prevention Grant over three years, including £352m for London between 2023 and 2025,” a spokesman said.

Picture: Pixabay/Kev

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