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Hackney has 20 new rough sleepers every month – but overall figure is going down

PUBLISHED: 12:43 19 February 2020 | UPDATED: 14:56 19 February 2020

Contrasting situations in Morning Lane: Rough sleeper tents in Churchwell Path beside the glitzy, but largely emty, Hackney Walk fashion hub. Picture: Cllr Ian Rathbone

Contrasting situations in Morning Lane: Rough sleeper tents in Churchwell Path beside the glitzy, but largely emty, Hackney Walk fashion hub. Picture: Cllr Ian Rathbone

Archant

Hackney has seen a drop in rough sleeping as the rest of London experiences a rise – but there are still 20 new people on the streets every month.

The Combined Homelessness and Information Network (Chain) data shows there was a 4.7% drop in the number of people sleeping on Hackney's streets between 2017/18 and 2018/19 - down from 171 to 163.

Across London there was an 18% increase, up from 7,484 to 8,855.

A report published as part of a new Rough Sleeping Strategy states the drop is out of sync with neighbouring boroughs, with Newham, Islington, Waltham Forest and the City of London seeing significant rises in rough sleeping and some of the highest figures in London.

Officers said: "The council has made considerable progress in tackling rough sleeping despite the particularly challenging backdrop - a lack of suitable affordable housing stock, significant cuts in government funding for health and support services and the ongoing reform of the welfare state that has seen housing support for low income households reduced considerably."

The council puts the success down to investing in outreach and support services, and says the new strategy aims to build on its work. It will aim to stop people becoming homeless by offering information and advice on accommodation options, engaging with those who are sleeping rough and offering sustainable accommodation options along with support on health, wellbeing and employability.

But while "more people than ever" are being helped into accommodation in Hackney, Chain data shows the number of people sleeping rough for the first time is on the rise, as it is across London. The figure in Hackney has risen from 59% of all rough sleepers in 2015/16 to 68% in 2018/19. In London there was a 24% rise from 2017/18 to 2018/19.

"This trend has continued in 2019/20 with significant churn in the borough's rough sleeping caseload," the report states. "The proportion of rough sleepers being supported off the streets, and into accommodation is at an all-time high.

"However they are being replaced by new rough sleepers at about 20 a month. This is due to the consequences of a lack of housing options and appropriate support."

Most people who sleep rough in Hackney come from outside the borough, and do not have a local connection. The majority come from neighbouring boroughs because, the council says they might have exhausted housing and support in their home area or been moved out through enforcement.

The other measure for rough sleeping is the official annual street count done every November. Hackney's number reduced from 23 in 2018 to 14 last year, though the true figure is higher as it doesn't include those sleeping on public transport or in late night restaurants.

Similarly, those standing or sitting near their bedding are not counted.

Musa Sevimli

The Rough Sleeper Strategy will also include recommendations from the upcoming safeguarding review into the July death of Musa Sevimli, the homeless man who died at the Stoke Newington bus stop where he had been living for a year.

"Our failure to successfully engage Musa Sevimli, who was a known rough sleeper in Hackney, and support him off the streets led to his death in 2019," housing chief Cllr Rebecca Rennison admitted. "We owe it to Musa and to every person who finds themselves sleeping rough to make sure we have the services and support in place to help people off the streets and into secure accommodation. These are our most vulnerable residents and we cannot fail them."


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