Established 2005 Registered Charity No. 1110656

Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

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Credit crunch Christmas - street sleepers double over six months

May 23 2009
The number of rough sleepers rough in London has soared in only six months, says the Simon Community The number of people sleeping rough on the streets of London has almost doubled in six months, according to the Simon Community's latest headcount. The charity found 263 rough sleepers, a 40 per cent rise since its last count in April, and blames the worsening situation, in part, on both the economic downturn and on an increase in migrants from Poland, Romania, Bulgaria and other former Eastern Bloc countries, the largest group driving the rise. But Jo Nurse, the group's community manager, said the figures revealed only the "tip of the iceberg": its volunteers were unable to record people sleeping in parks, derelict buildings or squats. "There's no doubt there's been an increase. Eastern European migrants are still coming to London, thinking the streets are paved with gold and they will be able to get a job easily, but they are the first to suffer when times are tough." The Simon Community argues that homelessness is likely to rise even further. Ms Nurse explained: "We have seen increasing numbers of men who have lost their jobs." More than 50 volunteers counted 263 rough sleepers across Westminster, Camden, Islington, Tower Hamlets, Lambeth, the City, Southwark and Kensington, compared with 165 in April. The 194 rough sleepers found in Westminster alone contradicts last month's Westminster council survey, which claimed its lowest number in a year, down from 105 in September 2007 to 69. Philippa Roe, Westminster's cabinet member for housing, said their street counts were "independently verified". The Simon Community carries out its headcount twice a year in eight London boroughs. It counts only those who are visible at the time of counting, and does not include those who sleep in parks, disused buildings or other places inaccessible to those doing the count.