Official rough sleeping statistics for London published today continue to confirm a worrying trend: young people have become a significant part of the capital’s rough sleeping population. Since the start of lockdown 11% of all rough sleepers have been under the age of 25, with a staggering 48% increase in July and September compared to the same period last year. We aren’t surprised as it reflects the daily reality at our centre and outreach. The pandemic has made an already difficult situation worse, and demands urgent investment in youth specific rough sleeping services.

The Combined Homelessness and Information Network (CHAIN) report released today shows that 366 18-25 year olds had been seen sleeping rough in London between July and September 2020, compared to 248 for the same period last year.

Phil Kerry, our CEO, said in response to the report:

“Today’s rough sleeping statistics leave no doubt that young people can no longer be ignored. Hundreds of young Londoners are slipping through the cracks or being put in serious danger. Since lockdown under-25s are more likely to end up on the streets, so safe and suitable support and accommodation must become available to them. With young people making up 11% of those on our streets, we need to see the Mayor make a commitment to providing the fair and appropriate funding they deserve.”

In 2019 we chaired the Young People Sleeping Rough Sub-Group of the Mayor’s Life Off the Streets Taskforce. Its report called for youth specific provision and resources for young rough sleepers, including emergency accommodation provision. So far City Hall has not ring-fenced any funds for street homeless people under 25.

These concerns were further highlighted by the Centrepoint Helpline, which has seen a 50% increase in calls in comparison to previous years, many of these from young people forced to sleep rough as sofa surfing becomes more difficult.

We’re partnering with Centrepoint to call for age appropriate provision for young Londoners sleeping rough. With winter around the corner, the first priority should be Covid-safe emergency accommodation for 18-25 year-olds who are street homeless. Going forward the Mayor must make proportionate budget allocations to match the 11% of rough sleepers who are young people. Given the continuing trend we must make sure that rough sleeping strategies now start to include young people’s experiences and needs. Although less immediately visible, young people are very present amongst rough sleepers and they must be no longer ignored.

We know that this will become even more vital as Tier 2 guidelines effectively make ‘sofa surfing’ (the most used lifeline for young people facing homelessness) illegal. The combination of new coronavirus restrictions and complete lack of youth specific emergency provision means London’s unhoused young people have to choose between asking their hosts to break the law, spending a night feeling unsafe in an all age shelter or sleeping rough.