Number of homeless refugees in London rises 39% in one month

ITV London's Anila Dhami explains what London's first Rough Sleeping Charter sets out to achieve

Refugees and asylum seekers in London are ending up homeless "at an alarming rate" after being evicted from Home Office accommodation, councils have warned.

Many of these people have no choice but to sleep on the streets, as under-resourced boroughs have no alternative accommodation to offer them, the cross-party London Councils group said.

New research by the association reports 846 refugees and asylum seekers presented as homeless in October, which represents a 39% increase on September’s figure.

Boroughs anticipate these numbers will rise even further in the coming months, as the government ramps up asylum decisions while working to close more hotels used to house asylum seekers.

They say the problem is exacerbated by the Home Office providing no funding to local authorities to support asylum-seekers in hotels since April this year.

"With winter setting in, boroughs fear a spike in rough sleeping just as conditions on the streets become even more dangerous," London Councils' report says.

Here's what London Councils is calling on the government to do:

  • Ensure a minimum 28-day notice period between an asylum-seeker receiving both their asylum decision and Biometric Residence Permit and being required to leave Home Office accommodation. Currently, many are only receiving a few days’ notice after receiving a Notice to Vacate letter.

  • Extend the move-on period to 56-days to align with the Homelessness Reduction Act and to give local authorities a meaningful period to mitigate homelessness risks.

  • Address SWEP pressures and concerns. Councils do not receive any specific funding from the government for SWEP activity. Boroughs’ homelessness and rough sleeping budgets already face intense pressures and government funding for SWEP would help sustain provision. Boroughs additionally call for a halt to cessations of asylum support and evictions during the whole period of any SWEP activations.

  • Fund a local wraparound support model that can be rolled out in all boroughs. This would include quick and early support, including facilitating access to employment and/or to Universal Credit, language support, and assessments of physical and mental health needs.

  • Enhance Rough Sleeping Prevention grant funding to support those who are at risk of rough sleeping but who are not eligible for assistance under the Homelessness Reduction Act or Housing Act.

London Councils’ executive member for communities, Councillor Grace Williams, said: “No one wants to see refugees becoming homeless after leaving Home Office accommodation, but this is happening at an alarming rate across the capital. “Boroughs are deeply concerned by the situation, which will only get more dangerous as winter sets in.

"Those granted asylum need adequate support for settling in the UK, yet too often are forced into sleeping rough on the streets. “At a time when London already faces enormous and unsustainable homelessness pressures, the government urgently needs to prevent this happening."

Kathy Mohan, chief executive of Housing Justice, said the churches, mosques and temples in the charity's network are seeing a rise in asylum seekers and refugees asking for help – "asylum decision letter in hand, with nowhere to sleep, and no idea how to get the support they need".

"We help where we can but many are resorting to rough sleeping," she said.

The report comes as Mayor of London Sadiq Khan announces a Rough Sleeping Charter, with the aim of wiping out homelessness in the capital. Credit: Victoria Jones/PA

The report comes as Mayor of London Sadiq Khan launches the capital's first Rough Sleeping Charter – a public commitment for Londoners to work together to end rough sleeping.

It has been developed by City Hall and more than 100 charities, faith groups, businesses and people with lived experience who want to engage better with the community on this issue.

“Homelessness is a societal illness. Witnessing people living on our streets leaves us horrified and helpless.

"That person we walk past has hopes and fears, just like us – they’re someone’s family, someone’s friend and they deserve dignity. We cannot – must not – stand by and allow a social catastrophe to unfold in a nation as rich as ours. “The cost-of-living crisis and other changes in government policy is putting more and more Londoners at risk of losing their homes and ending up with nowhere to go."

A Home Office spokesperson told ITV London: “We are committed to ensuring asylum claims are considered without unnecessary delays.

“Once someone is informed that their asylum claim has been granted, they get at least 28 days notice to move on from their asylum accommodation.

“Support is offered to newly recognised refugees by Migrant Help and their partners, which includes advice on how to access Universal Credit, the labour market and where to get assistance with housing.

“We are working with local authorities to help communities manage the impact of asylum decisions as the legacy backlog reduces.”

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