144 rough sleepers on the streets in the East End this winter

Sleeping rough on streets of East End, depicted by Model Andrew.

More people are sleeping rough on streets of the East End - depicted by model Andrew. - Credit: Sam Mellish, stockshot

Rough sleeping shot up by almost a third in the East End leading up to the New Year, latest shock figures reveal.  

Numbers of those on the streets during the winter nights rose by 30 per cent, statistics for Tower Hamlets show. The GLA found 144 people sleeping rough in the three months to the end of December, compared to 111 in the previous quarter. 

London Assembly's Unmesh Desai... calling for another campaign to get rough sleepers off the streets 

London Assembly's Unmesh Desai is calling for another campaign to get rough sleepers off the streets - Credit: Tom Simpson/GLA

London Assembly member Unmesh Desai, who represents east London at City Hall, is urging the government to bring back its “everyone’s in” programme during the first lockdown to get people off the streets. 

“It’s tragic to see so many sleeping rough,” he said. “They are exposed to both Covid-19 and the winter. Ministers can take action to stop more people ending up homeless in the middle of a pandemic.” 

Last year's scheme enabled City Hall to work with local authorities such as Tower Hamlets and with charities to get hotel accommodation for rough sleepers. 

One cause of homelessness is tenants falling into rent arrears, he points out. Counter-measures could include clearing arrears of renters feeling the pinch of the pandemic, raising local Housing Allowance to cover average rents and ending “no fault” evictions.  

Assembly member Unmesh Desai... "Tragic seeing so many sleeping rough"

Assembly member Unmesh Desai. - Credit: Mike Brooke

But Mr Desai claims calls from the mayor and homeless charities are being ignored because there is no cash being put aside to repeat the shelter scheme.  

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City Hall’s rough sleeping team in December identified a £24m government funding gap for securing emergency accommodation.  

Now fears have been raised about renters in private accommodation in arrears ending up homeless. A survey by Citizens Advice shows one in seven getting into debt. This partly results from London having the highest unemployment rate in the UK with Office of National Statistics showing one in 20 out of work. 

The government last month extended the ban on evictions for another six weeks, but a new exemption allows landlords to evict tenants with six months arrears, London Assembly members point out.  

Government pledges were made in 2019 to outlaw “no fault” evictions, but two years on the Assembly members fear that evictions without a reason remain an option for landlords after the ban ends.