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Redbridge charities claim official figure of homelessness is ‘just the tip of the iceberg’

PUBLISHED: 06:55 03 February 2017

Homeless camp on Havelock Street in Ilford

Homeless camp on Havelock Street in Ilford

Rosaleen Fenton

There are 60 rough sleepers in Redbridge, the eighth highest figure in the country according to government statistics.

The number of people sleeping rough in the borough rose by 40 per cent in the past year, states Department for Communities and Local Government data.

At a network meeting held by Redbridge Faith Forum in Ilford on Tuesday, six organisations working with the homeless came together to share information.

Rita Chadha, chief executive of Refugee and Migrant Forum of Essex and London (Ramfel), which offers specialist immigration advice, said it was “misleading” to think rough sleepers were drawn to the borough because of the quality of services available.

“We have had no investment in housing stock,” she said.

“This is starting to change but we are still behind the others.”

Phil Herbert, director of the Healthy Living Projects, agreed with Ms Chadha, saying: “Out of all the London boroughs we have the lowest amount of housing apart from the City of London.”

He added that the various organisations helping the homeless “are not in competition with each other, there is very much a sense of partnership”.

He said: “We work together and see each other’s skills and weakness.”

Lou Holland, service manager at Single Homeless Project, said an additional reason for the high numbers could be down to the feeling of “community”.

“People look after people, rough sleepers will be together as there is a sense of safety,” she said.

The data only represents the number of rough sleepers that were seen during a set time period, and the charities at the meeting warned about the hidden homeless.

“What we see on the street is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Mr Herbert. “People spending all night going back and forth on the night bus or sofa surfing will not be included.”

Mark Brennan, of Housing Justice, explained there are many people at risk of eviction, who squatted or lived in cars, who would not be included in that figure.

“The data shows there are 2.7million homeless people in the UK. I am sure that it is really much more than that,” he said

If you are worried about the welfare of a rough sleeper you can call Streetlink on 0300 500 0914 or visit streetlink.org.uk.


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