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News in Brief 143: Apr – May 2023

April 01 2023
Our bi-monthly round up of what's been happening...
By Bronagh Sheridan

Off target

How goes the government’s pledge to eliminate rough sleeping in England by 2024? The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities released statistics for the rough sleeping snapshot for autumn 2022 in late February, showing a sharp 26% increase in the number of people sleeping rough. An estimated 3,069 people slept rough in England on any given night in Autumn 2022, up by more than a quarter on the previous year. Homeless Link Chief Executive Rick Henderson called the figure “shocking”. A breakdown of the count revealed the number of people sleeping rough in London on a single autumn night has increased by 34% on the previous year to 858 people. The government’s annual rough sleeping count is widely believed to understate the number of people sleeping rough, as the figure is simply a snapshot of one night in the year.

Troubling trends

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has also released official data on statutory homelessness in England. Like the government’s rough sleeping snapshot, the statutory homelessness data shows an alarming trend. The number of people housed in temporary accommodation in England continues to grow. A shocking 99,270 households, including more than 125,000 children, were staying in temporary accommodation at the end of September 2022. Crisis points out the number of households in temporary accommodation is at its highest level in 18 years. Alarmingly, Section 21 ‘no-fault’ evictions continue to leave people facing homelessness. According to the statistics released in late February, 6,170 households were facing homelessness because of a ‘no-fault’ eviction notice. Despite promises, there has been no update on the progress of the Renters’ Reform Bill, which would scrap these evictions.

The Prize for Reporting Homelessness

© The Orwell Foundation
The Orwell Foundation has created a new category among its prestigious awards to celebrate journalism and writing on homelessness. The Prize for Reporting Homelessness was launched this year to coincide with the 90th anniversary of George Orwell’s seminal text Down and Out in Paris and London. The book explored and described the root cause and impact of homelessness and poverty in early 20th century London and Paris. The prize will run annually and is open to everybody. People experiencing homelessness are encouraged to apply. Entries for the 2023 prize close on 17 April.
- For information on this year’s prize and when submissions for the 2024 prize are open, visit the Orwell Foundation website here:

Cost of crisis

Westminster Council has announced that the number of households lodging in hotels has grown by an astonishing 1,740% in the borough. The reported costs on average of £8,152 a month, or £268 a night to house a family in a hotel in Westminster, contributes to the council’s staggering £48m spend on temporary accommodation in 2022. Shelter has calculated that 150,000 people across London are living in temporary accommodation, such as hotels. The Evening Standard notes half of these people are children.

FIFA foul-up

FIFA president Gianni Infantino has been telling anyone who will listen that the latest iteration of FIFA’s showpiece event, controversially staged in Qatar in November – December 2022, was the best ever. However, evidence and countless reports from the Gulf state suggest the host nation’s record on worker exploitation was far from the best. The latest, courtesy of Norwegian investigative site Josimar, details the experience of migrant workers having to sleep rough after working at the World Cup. Security guards working for FIFA subcontractor Stark Security have not been paid and have also been forced to sleep rough. Speaking to Josimar, teenagers Paul and Dave (whose names have been changed for anonymity) spoke of abuse and hardship in the World Cup labour camps built for migrant workers, before being kicked out with hardly any warning in January. At the time of the interview in February, the pair had slept rough for three straight days, telling Josimar: “We don’t have food. We haven’t eaten in two days. The court doesn’t take action [against unpaid wages]. We don’t have anything.”

Ukraine update

Homelessness among Ukrainian refugees in the UK has increased sixfold since June 2022, according to data released by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. In response, a coalition of 70 cross-party MPs have signed a letter urging the government to act. More than 4,000 Ukrainian households have received homelessness support from their local authority over the past year. More recently, there was a 44% increase in the number of homeless Ukrainian households between November 2022 and January 2023.


In Bristol, local charity We Can Make has teamed up with the local council to build homes in unused backyards of agreeing tenants of council houses. The new scheme has already built two eco-friendly micro-homes in under-used spaces, bringing new life and opportunities into the community. Under this scheme, the charity leases the land from the council that manages the council homes and then rents out the housing to those in need for a reasonable price. As well as being able to help solve the issue of a lack of housing, this scheme is also bringing the community together. The council said that the planning application of the first two homes got over 40 letters of support, which they said was surprising since they typically receive “hundreds of letters of complaint” when building work takes place. This demonstrates there is strong support for more of these houses to be built.

Find and Treat

© Common Wheel
A UK-first eco-tricycle has been launched by University College London Hospital’s (UCLH) “Find and Treat” outreach team to screen and treat homeless people and people sleeping rough in London. UCLH has termed the tricycle the UK’s first fold-out health clinic on wheels, and will be used to identify and treat illnesses including tuberculosis, HIV and Covid-19. NHS doctors and outreach staff will be using the eco-tricycle, which will cover London’s most deprived areas.

Strike action

The union Unite is set to ballot on possible strike action for the homeless charity St Mungo’s. This means that if they vote to strike, approximately 500 of the charity’s workers in London, Bristol, Brighton, Oxford, Bournemouth and Reading will not be working. Unite says that this vote comes in response to a 2021 pay dispute. Sharon Graham, General Secretary of Unite, commented: “St Mungo’s frontline workers are on the streets every night helping homeless people but many can’t afford to pay their own rent,” as these workers also face the growing pressure of rising rents and bills. The postal ballot for strike action ran until the end of March.

Capital crisis

About 1 in 58 people in London experienced homelessness in 2022, according to a new study published by Shelter in March. This number far outweighs the national average of 1 in 208 people, highlighting that the capital is facing a huge crisis that is not being adequately addressed. Shelter warns that there will be a steep rise in this number in 2023 with the increasing pressure of the cost of living crisis. Councillor Darren Rodwell, London Councils’ Executive Member for Regeneration, Housing & Planning told the Evening Standard, “the numbers are so high they are equivalent to the entire population of a London borough,” further demonstrating the gravity of the current state of play.

Overnight Welcome Centre Update
© Glasgow City Mission
Glasgow City Mission (GCM) marked 100 nights of its 2022/23 winter night shelter on 11 March. The Overnight Welcome Centre opened on 1 December and a GCM press release says it has prevented 422 guests sleeping rough. The Overnight Welcome Centre closed until the end of the year on 31 March, but people can still visit GCM’s day centre.
- For more information, visit the GCM website here:

Charity batch

A Glasgow musician has partnered with the city’s Hidden Lane Brewery to produce a beer, with all proceedings going to Homeless Project Scotland (HPS). Kenny Lee Roberts, whose music has been described by Glasgow Live as a mix of Americana and Northern Soul, is covering all the production costs himself, so will donate the full amount of every single sale to HPS. Explaining the thinking behind the fundraising collaboration, Kenny told Glasgow Live, “We all have to do something to help. We just do. Reading the stories about what the team from Homeless Project Scotland do is inspiring and horrifying all at the same time.”

Moving forward

The harsh reality of temporary accommodation will be familiar to many readers of the Pavement. The often-difficult experience was talked about in-depth on Scotland Tonight in March on STV. John Conway was interviewed about his journey navigating temporary accommodation in Edinburgh, to owning a housing association flat in the city. “It’s hard work,” he told the show. “You are already in a prison within yourself anyway and then you get put in a box, a room, to fend for yourself. Most of them don’t have cooking equipment.” John now enjoys working for the homeless charity Cyrenians, telling Scotland Tonight: “I just love working with people and instilling hope in people when they have none.”
- Watch full interview here:

Funding cut

The Alliance to End Homelessness, a body set up to bring together and coordinate organisations tackling homelessness in Glasgow, faces a disastrous £2.1m cut to its funding, according to the Daily Record. The move comes as part of a wider set of £22m cuts proposed by the Glasgow City Health and Social Care Partnership. Campaigner Sean Clerkin, of the Scottish Tenants Association, said the number of people experiencing homelessness in the city will continue to rise, commenting: “This [the homelessness crisis] is going to worsen with forthcoming budget cuts at local and national level with the Scottish Government proposing to cut the social homes budget by £112.8m, which is a 16%.”