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Hidden homelessness in London

Homelessness remains a huge problem in London. In the year to March 2017, 18,070 households were accepted as homeless by local authorities in the capital. The number of those rough sleeping in London in 2016-17 totalled 8,108. However, homelessness charities have long argued that official statistics only tell half the story. By all indications, the problem of hidden homelessness is on a much larger scale than that of observable homelessness. Those without a roof over their head, but who are not entitled to homelessness support from the Government, are often forced into dangerous and insecure forms of accommodation, such as rough sleeping, sofa surfing and trading sex for a bed.

Unless they approach local authorities or homelessness support services, this group remains hidden from official figures and has great difficulty getting back into secure accommodation. And without an accurate picture of the numbers of hidden homeless people it is hard for the Government and local authorities to effectively support them.

The purpose of our investigation was to learn more about the lives of those who are hidden from homelessness statistics and to understand their experiences. This is an under-researched area, not least because it is a ‘hidden’ phenomenon. The report seeks to explain the problem better. It is also a call to action for both the Mayor and others to delve deeper into this problem, and to stimulate further research and action to prevent homelessness. This report highlights areas where improvements could be made and where the Mayor can show leadership in tackling this issue. We carried out a survey of homeless Londoners and spoke to a wide range of experts to inform the recommendations in this report. Details of our approach to the investigation and statistical analysis can be found in Appendix 1.