Rough Sleeping in London: An Increasing Reality. By Judy Chicangana

Let’s admit it, our heart is broken every time we see a person sleeping in the cold streets of London. The other day I ran into an old man sleeping in the streets. He was quite upset because a person had given him urine in a Lucozade bottle which he only realised when he tasted it. I mean, what are some people thinking? 

Anyway, living in those conditions must be really harsh and the worst part is that I have seen more people on the street lately. So, it made me think, why is this phenomenon growing in one of the most important cities in the world?. Let’s start clarifying that rough sleeping is the lack of any accommodation (not temporary, not permanent). This term is usually mixed up with being homeless, which is a person that has temporary housing.

How exactly are the rates of rough sleeping growing in London? (GovUK, 2019) According to official data released in January 2019, the number of rough sleepers increased in 2018 by 13%. Sadly, the figures have been growing since 2014. London had 27% of the rough sleepers in England in 2018 (the average percentage has been 20% since 2010).

Regarding the profile of rough sleepers, the “good news” according to official data is that we don’t have people under 18 sleeping on the streets. Most are mainly over 26 years old. (GovUK,2019). All these statistics are difficult to accept, especially because we are in a developed country, it shouldn’t happen. These people don’t have their primary needs satisfied.

This subject is especially disturbing for me because I was homeless for a few hours in my first year living in London. My husband and I were evicted from our accommodation because the landlord simply didn’t want to rent to us anymore, just 4 days after we paid the rent. This person kept the rent money and the deposit. We were kicked on to the streets without money. Those were tough times!

As I see it, it is very easy to have an “out of control” situation, and everyone could be susceptible to being part of the statistics. It could be a matter of a single person losing their job and not finding a new job quickly. That’s scary,  but London is one of the top ten most expensive cities in the world, according to (see the picture).

The cost of living in London for a single person is £1,700 per month, according to That is just insane!

How is the life of a woman that sleeps rough? 

The University of York conducted research on this subject, and 14 women were interviewed in the areas of Bristol, Leeds and York. These are some quotations from the document:

  • Most had been subjected to horrific violations, this included being spat at, urinated on and vomited on. Many had been robbed, threatened, experienced physical violence and had been continually harassed for sex by male members of the public.
  • We have to hide because if we don’t we’re gonna get raped, kicked, beat”.
  • Several women reported that they felt safer with men who were also rough sleeping than with male members of the public.
  • There were also concerns that perpetrators of domestic violence could sometimes track the women through their appearance at some homelessness services.
  • The women reported barriers to domestic violence services, which were seen as difficult to access.
  • Every single time I go to the council there’s a reason why it’s my fault. I’ve been treated like I’m a prostitute like I’m on drugs…they make you feel that you are lying– ‘Oh, did you really sleep out on the street?’ Well, I wouldn’t say I’ve slept out on the street, but walking around all night is near enough sleeping– sorry I didn’t sleep– ‘Oh, well you’re not homeless then.’”


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