London mayor calls for govt help as homelessness jumps
LONDON (AFP) - The number of rough sleepers on London's streets has increased by almost a quarter this winter, the latest figures showed Wednesday, as Britain battles a cost-of-living crisis.
Homelessness charities recorded 4,389 people sleeping rough in the last three months of 2023, up from 3,570 during the same period a year before -- an increase of 23 percent.
More than 1,200 people used emergency accommodation during a two-week cold snap in January, when mayor Sadiq Khan activated the Severe Weather Emergency Protocol, around 30 percent more than during the same period last year.
Of those, 242 people reported that they were newly-granted refugees who had just left government-provided accommodation, according to data from London Councils, which represents all 32 local authorities in the British capital.
Newly-recognised refugees currently have 28 days to move on from asylum support accommodation.
"The government's continued hostile approach to refugees has meant that hundreds of people are becoming homeless or sleeping rough on our streets," Khan said in a statement.
"As mayor, I'm determined to do everything I can to work with boroughs and the voluntary sector to tackle rough sleeping in the capital and I urge government ministers to back our efforts to end this shameful situation for good," he added.
The mayor also announced a new west London hub providing additional beds to deal with the rising number of rough sleepers.
A cost-of-living crisis in the G7 nation and world's sixth-biggest economy has left many Britons struggling to make ends meet, as bills for food, energy, rent and mortgages increase.
Annual inflation hit a 41-year peak of 11.1 percent in October 2022, and while it has come down, charities say a range of factors -- notably cuts to welfare payments in the last decade and a housing shortage -- has exacerbated homelessness.