Rough sleepers face bleak winter

Kingston Council is working hard to accommodate rough sleepers over the winter as Covid-19 continues to force local shelters to shut. 

The Council has worked with local charity Kingston Churches Action on Homelessness (KCAH) to implement a Rough Sleeper Initiative which has managed to keep thousands safe during the winter months, over the past few years. 

Chief executive officer at KCAH, Matt Hatton, shared his concern “that the charity may be unable to run due to the risk implication arising from Covid-19”. 

Since the beginning of the pandemic in March, Kingston Council has managed to house over a hundred local rough sleepers by providing accommodation in hotels across Kingston. 

KCAH has been running temporary winter shelters for over 10 years. 

In 2018, it was able to open a new winter night shelter which since has kept hundreds safe, but the shelter has been forced to close due to the Covid-19 outbreak. 

London Assembly analysis revealed that as a result of the failing economy and thousands of job losses, rough sleeping during the lockdown in London was up by a third compared to this time last year. 

‘New generation of rough sleepers’

Cllr Emily Davey, Kingston Council’s portfolio holder for housing and public health, said she was worried about the rise in homelessness figures.

 “The end of the furlough scheme and the downturn in the economy means we are likely to see a new generation of rough sleepers on our streets,” she said. 

The unemployment rate in London has risen sharply over the last few months. 

Recent figures, published by the Office of National Statistics revealed that it was the 16 to 24 age group that were hit hardest. 

In the past three months, there has been a 13.4 per cent rise in unemployment in this age group. 

With winter approaching and temperatures set to drop, many rough sleepers will be relying on the winter night shelter provision to keep them safe.

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