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Plea for help as shock number of rough sleepers on streets of East End almost doubles in 12 months

PUBLISHED: 12:00 15 September 2020

What it's like rough sleeping on the streets of east London, depicted by model Andrew. Picture: Sam Mellish

What it's like rough sleeping on the streets of east London, depicted by model Andrew. Picture: Sam Mellish

Credit Sam Mellish

Rough sleeping on the streets of the East End shot up by almost half in the 12 months before the pandemic lockdown, latest City Hall figures reveal.

City Hall's Unmesh Dessai warning of rough sleepers almost doubling in numbers in just 12 months. Picture: Tom Simpson and (inset) Mike BrookeCity Hall's Unmesh Dessai warning of rough sleepers almost doubling in numbers in just 12 months. Picture: Tom Simpson and (inset) Mike Brooke

The number of homeless people sleeping out every night without shelter increased by 45 per cent between April 2019 and March this year.

New GLA findings shows 459 rough sleepers were recorded by Tower Hamlets in this 12-month period compared to little more than 200 in the same timespan the previous year.

Numbers could get even worse in the coming months with the ending of the freeze on evictions without government action to protect renters and those struggling during the Covid-19 pandemic, London Assembly’s Unmesh Dessai fears.

“Rough sleeping is getting worse despite all the warm words we’ve heard from the government,” he warned.

“We are facing a recession and a potential second pandemic wave and need to act now to protect those who are vulnerable.”

London Assembly member Dessai in Brick Lane... London Assembly member Dessai in Brick Lane... "We're facing second wave pandemic and need to protect the vulnerable." Picture: Mike Brooke

But the Labour Assembly member, who represents east London at City Hall, does acknowledge what the government has done when working collaborating with the mayor and local authorities like Tower Hamlets.

The “everyone in” scheme provided emergency accommodation to thousands of vulnerable people Londoners during the height of lock-down.

“We cannot allow this positive momentum to be lost,” Unmesh insisted. “The government needs to put stronger protections in place to protect renters and increase support for those most at risk of ending up homeless.”

The “everyone in” campaign gave 4,000 homeless people across London emergency hotel accommodation.

This led to a temporary ban on evictions—but that is set to end on September 23.

Rhythms of Life charity's outreach night operation to rescue rough sleepers in Whitechapel. Picture: Rhythms of LifeRhythms of Life charity's outreach night operation to rescue rough sleepers in Whitechapel. Picture: Rhythms of Life

City Hall is calling for further measures to prevent another spike in homelessness coinciding with a predicted second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic this winter.

Measures called for include tougher protection for renters and more help for those outside the social security net who have no official with no recourse to public funds.

The government pledged more than a year ago to ban “no fault” evictions.

But legislation is still in place giving landlords powers to force tenants out at two months’ notice without having to give a reason.

City Hall, meanwhile, secured £67million in July as part of a government grant to build long-term accommodation for rough sleepers.


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