Funding for transport homelessness

A cash boost to expand London’s night outreach team has been given by City Hall amid concerns over the number of people sleeping rough on public transport.

By Noah Vickers, Local Democracy Reporter

A moving London bus at night time
Photo: Belinda Fewings/Unsplash

A cash boost to expand London’s night outreach team has been given by City Hall amid concerns over the number of people sleeping rough on public transport.

Mayor Sadiq Khan announced on Thursday that he has committed a further £200,000 to provide more emergency accommodation and one-to-one support for rough sleepers found on the capital’s Tube and bus network.

A total of 178 people were recorded rough sleeping on Tube and bus routes in the year from April 2022 to March 2023. Data spanning from April to September this year suggests there were 89 rough sleepers on the transport network.

Bill Tidham, chief executive of Thames Reach, a charity working with City Hall to tackle rough sleeping, said: “Street homelessness takes many forms. For some, the perceived safety of public transport at night can seem a better option than sleeping on the streets, or in a doorway.

“This safety is an illusion, and we know that prolonged rough sleeping, wherever it is, has a catastrophic impact on your health and your choices in life.

“This funding will ensure our team can find people sleeping on the transport network and support them to take the first step away from street homelessness towards a better life.”

The Night Transport Outreach team, funded by the mayor’s rough sleeping budget and delivered by Thames Reach, is part of the mayor’s Rapid Response Outreach service, dedicated to providing outreach shifts on TfL night buses, the night Tube and London Overground.

The service, which the mayor established in 2017, responds to StreetLink alerts and works in partnership with TfL bus drivers and station staff to locate and support people who are sleeping rough on the night transport network.

Mr Khan said: “Our night outreach workers play an essential role in locating the most vulnerable in our society and supporting them out of homelessness.

“I’m pleased that more than 16,000 Londoners have been successfully helped off of the streets since I took office, including over 100 Londoners who were identified as sleeping rough on the transport network in this year alone.

“Despite our best efforts, rough sleeping in the capital is sadly on the rise. I fear that current national policy will make ending rough sleeping an impossibility, which is why I remain resolute in my call on the Government to urgently act to put an end to the conveyor belt of people being forced into homelessness.”

City Hall said that the mayor’s additional investment has been used to recruit the first ‘Hot spot link worker’ to work in partnership with TfL staff, outreach teams and local services to tackle rough sleeping in stations and other TfL locations with high numbers of people needing support.

Extra staff members have also joined the night outreach team to respond to StreetLink alerts, work on routes where people are commonly known to sleep rough and provide specialist support.

Approached for comment on Mr Khan’s repeated claim that the Government is making it “impossible” to end rough sleeping, homelessness minister Felicity Buchan MP said earlier this month: “We are determined to end rough sleeping for good and are working hand-in-hand with the homelessness sector and other partners to make sure people have a roof over their head and the support to rebuild their lives.

“We have given councils £2 billion – including nearly £190 million for London – to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping, and in the capital are supporting 13 projects that provide services and emergency accommodation. Through our Rough Sleeping Strategy we will end rough sleeping completely.”

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