The Borough of Westminster is home to Buckingham Palace, Downing Street, the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben - symbols of the nation’s central power and status.

Yet Westminster is also the home (or lack thereof) of the largest number of rough sleepers across all local authorities in the UK.

On Valentine’s day this year, a Portuguese former model was found dead in an entrance to Westminster Underground, just metres away from the Houses of Commons.

Map from 2016-17 CHAIN Greater London Full Report 33: Westminster (Dark Red= more than 2001 people sleeping rough)

The man, who was in his forties, had been staying at the emergency night centre, The Connection. The charity’s 28-night limit was up and he was due to move to another shelter when outreach workers found him.

After his death, Pam Orchard, the charity’s chief executive said the recent rise in homelessness was a result of government policies including sustained austerity and cuts to welfare services.

She said: “When you operate a policy of prolonged austerity, when you cut drug and alcohol services, mental health services, housing services, I’m sorry but you lose the right to be surprised that people are falling through a net where the holes are getting bigger every day.”

According to data from CHAIN’s annual borough reports, rough sleeper figures in Westminster have, in fact, decreased from the 2015/16 count despite the overall national rise.

But people sleeping on the streets in Westminster have seen a general increased over the past five years with 1588 new sleepers (flow) in the Borough in the last report of 2016/17 compared with 1319 in 2012/13.

Data taken from CHAIN annual London Borough reports in the Flow, Stock, Returner model.
Flow: People who had never been seen rough sleeping prior to 2016/17 (i.e. new rough sleepers).
Stock: People who were also seen rough sleeping in 2015/16 (i.e. those seen across two consecutive years).
Returner: People who were first seen rough sleeping prior to 2015/16, but were not seen during 2015/16 (i.e. those who have had a gap in their rough sleeping histories).

During the snow in March, Josh Brown, community liaison officer at The Passage, a Westminster-based homeless charity said: “everyone’s got concerns about people sleeping out in this weather. We see up to 130 people a day here.”

This year’s waves of icy weather, the numerous, ‘beasts of the east’, and the Portuguese man’s death could be the wake-up call that Westminster needs.

 

 

 

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