Why London?

As a London-based homeless charity, we are often asked why we don’t work to end homelessness everywhere.

Of course, all homelessness is unacceptable in today’s society. We’re also aware that some areas of the UK struggle to fund support, especially rural areas.

Having somewhere to sleep, but lacking a secure home

However, we feel our contribution to ending homelessness is best focused on London’s rough sleeping crisis. This is because we have been helping people in crisis in the heart of Westminster for over one hundred years. Westminster has more people sleeping rough than anywhere else in the UK. Our history is part of who we are – we have decades of expertise on our side.

This is important for two key reasons:

homelessness facts - blue and green background with text reading 'The numbers: Over 10,000 people are sleeping rough in London. 20% are in Westminster where we work (making it the UK's epicentre of homelessness). This is a 21% increase in the last year alone. The unique context: Many of the people we work with are drawn to London from all over the UK and across the global. This mean we see people with a wide range of barriers to leaving the streets and goals for the future.'

This puts us in a unique situation which requires a lot of kindness, experience and understanding to overcome. Being in the heart of Westminster also allows us to work closely with the government on policy which can have a nation-wide impact. Accordingly, the forward-thinking approach we take to supporting people experiencing homelessness in London is more likely to have a ripple effect across the country, benefiting those struggling with homelessness everywhere.

London homelessness in numbers

As you saw above, the sheer amount of people sleeping rough on our streets is shocking and it’s estimated that 1 in 58 people in London are experiencing homelessness. Due to the cost of living crisis, many areas in the UK are seeing higher-than-normal rates of homelessness. The scale of this problem continues to grows at an alarming rate.

In the last year, 64% of people found sleeping rough in London were doing so for the first time. While many of these people were supported off the streets, solutions are often short-term, meaning many people become trapped in a cycle of homelessness as they struggle to secure a permanent home to live in.

Sadly, 2,084 people seen rough sleeping in 2022/23 were also seen on London’s streets in 2021/22, meaning they have not been able to move into long-term housing during this time – perhaps due to a lack of suitable support.

Finally, 1,578 people seen rough sleeping during the year were returners – meaning they had previously stopped sleeping rough and later returned to the streets. This tells us that London has a real problem with creating long-term change for people sleeping rough. This is something we’re working to overcome as a leading London homeless charity.

Numbers like these can feel overwhelming and disconnected from our day-to-day life, but it only takes one walk out into London to see the the thousands of people sleeping rough on our streets.

Stories of London homelessness

“At the time I was going through all the bad stuff, so my head was a bit all over the place. I started drinking and taking drugs… You’re not aware of time really, days and more days and nights turn into all the same”.

After sleeping rough on London’s streets, Jade got in touch with us at The Connection. She initially used our basic services – showers, laundry, a hot meal- while she got to know us.

She soon built a very strong relationship with her key worker Hannah, who helped her to get support for her substance misuse and encouraged her to take care of her mental health. She also helped Jade get a flat, where she has been living for over a year.

Of course, the diversity of London means we see a lot of people with different life experiences that lead them into homelessness. Nariman first moved to London as an asylum seeker in the early 2000s. He was initially able to find work and a home but ended up sleeping rough once legal changes meant he was no longer able to work in the UK. Our dedicated migration team was created to work with people like Nariman, who often find themselves on London’s streets.

We’ve seen countless stories of people struggling to find the right support often because London services are underfunded and in high demand. Our work minimises pressure on the homelessness sector and provides support those who often fall through the cracks of existing systems.

Our work as a London homeless charity

On the hectic streets of London, people can really struggle to feel seen, supported and heard. We understand this and have seen and/or experienced it first-hand.

There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to tackling homelessness – everyone is unique. Our job is to help people with homelessness and rough sleeping, changing their lives in the way that they want to, at their own pace.

Our frontline services are delivered in and around our resource centre at Adelaide Street and at St Martin’s House, our supported housing project in South London. We also have strong links with local councils which makes accessing government support easier for the people we work with. All this fits into our Housing First approach to ending homelessness.

You can find out more about how we support people sleeping rough in London here.