London’s Hidden Homeless

Over the past five years, there has been a huge surge in the number of families living in temporary accommodation. Nationally, there has been a 203% rise, but in London the rise has been even sharper. In the borough of Southwark, there has been a 1500% rise over the last five years. It is illegal for these families to be in temporary accommodation for longer than six weeks, but many are left there for months on end.

Although these figures are clearly high, it is likely that the true figures are much higher. Councils are finding loopholes in the system to inaccurately record homeless families. This is the crux of the story, not only has there been a huge rise in the number of homeless families in London, but the figures are hidden and much higher than people realise. This has received very little press attention, if any.

We spoke to several housing organisations and London Assembly member who said that the benefit cap was to blame for this rise. With London’s uniquely high cost of living, many families are simply not coping.

Many councils are moving homeless families outside of London, to as far afield as Scotland. Not only has this move been labelled “social cleansing” by many groups, but it also removes the most vulnerable from their support networks. 65% of those living in temporary accommodation were single parents, and 95% had children. For these people, local support networks of friends and family are vital.

However, the benefit cap is set to be further lowered to £23,000. Every housing expert we spoke to told me that this would inevitably lead to an increase in homelessness. For example, Joanna Kennedy, a spokesperson for housing charity Zaccheus 2000, described the benefit cap as “social cleansing” and a policy that “penalises Londoners”.

No alternative is being offered to this situation. Labour supported the benefit cap and support reducing it to £23,000. The cap has the support of over 70% of the public. Furthermore, there is just not enough social housing in London to house these families, a situation that looks like it will worsen if the right to buy scheme is expanded.

Ultimately, it is clear that a form of social cleansing is taking place in the capital. The most vulnerable are being priced out of the city and their needs are being ignored by government. To add to this, their needs are being ignored by the general public who endorse the policies that cause these families’ suffering.


2 thoughts on “London’s Hidden Homeless

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  1. The hidden homeless are in fact people like myself who are not registered as homeless by local government, because they say i made myself intentionally homeless, which is ludicrous.

    Secondly i do not fit the criteria
    I’m not vulnerable
    Not escaping domestic violence
    I do not have children
    I do not have drug/alcohol related problems
    recently released from prison
    Mental Health issues
    General health issues, even though type 2 diabetes, type 1 is deemed more important because you need insulin injections.

    And because of the above I’m not considered for any help from my local government ( now 3 years), not even temporary accomodation which is for the those who fit the criteria above.

    I realise this is about London, I live in Essex and the service are subject to funding, and are not so readily available as they use the same criteria as local councils.

    We have a Night Shelter which houses 28 people, however if your in receipt of benefit you pay £3.00 per night, if not you have to pay 24.50 per night £171.50 per week, now if you don’t have an address you can’t claim benefit, and where is a homeless person going get nearly £200 per week and even the bad landlords aren’t even charging that.

    I have been sofa surfing for 3 yrs so not considered homeless or vulnerable, even with the supreme high court judgement deeming that all homeless are to be treated the same, this has not filtered down to local councils, or when it’s mentioned they just ignore you.

    The various charitable agencies that can help such as SHELTER, will only give support during ongoing cases of eviction if you lose your case, they sign you off(happened to me the same day) and told to present yourself to the council, who won’t help because they stipulate your intentionally homeless, and your sent to the Night Shelter, who take you in on a first come first served basis.

    Even sofa surfing I’ve vulnerable to the whims of whoever might take me in, even one night having the boyfriend of my host coming into my room in the early hours.

    I have no possessions, save for what I carry around, and have been hungry on several occasions.

    Whilst I agree with the idea of social cleansing, and the families are at risk so are single people and the rise of rough sleeping has risen exponetially in the last 5 years.

    The benefit caps does create homelessness, and the double talk given to you by those in power only serve to continue the terror of homelessness and the effects are far reaching for all that find themselves without a home. – My story

    Hopefully you will take the time to read this and my blogs on this subject, many of us have something to say and the social cleansing isn’t just happening in London and further cuts will bring more homelessness/poverty/hunger.


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