Camden Council has told the Department for Communities and Local Government that there were only 17 rough sleepers on a “typical night” across the entire London borough in the autumn of 2016, according to official statistics released today.

Someone sleeping on the street under a blanket.
Camden said there are only 17 rough sleepers in the whole of the borough on a “typical night” in autumn 2016.

The figure of 17 is just not credible by any stretch of the imagination. Camden claims to have fewer rough sleepers than neighbouring Brent, Barnet and Haringey.

In January 2016 the Ham & High newspaper reported on rough sleepers in West Hampstead, and the Camden New Journal published articles last year about groups of rough sleepers being moved on in Camden Town and the deaths of street homeless.

Fitzrovia News recently organised three street counts in part of Bloomsbury ward in Camden. Our street counts found more people in one 45 minute walk than Camden estimates for the whole of the borough.

  • Thursday 17 November 2016: 21
  • Thursday 1 December 2016: 28
  • Monday 16 January 2017: 25

The London Borough of Camden has 18 wards and our street counts covered only about a quarter of one ward. All sightings of rough sleepers were reported to Camden’s Safer Streets Team. Our street count numbers could only represent the tip of the iceberg of street homeless in the borough.

Camden’s Bloomsbury ward councillors wrote to local residents last year saying that rough sleeping “is something that is of increasing concern” and invited them to attend a public meeting to discuss the issue last week.

Labour controlled Camden Council did not bother to do an actual street count of people sleeping rough on its streets in 2016 but opted to do an estimate instead. In response to a Freedom of Information request from Fitzrovia News the council said:

“Camden carried out an estimate, and has done so each year since 2013, overseen and verified by Homeless Link. We believe this is the best use of partnership resources to produce a snapshot of rough sleeping in the borough. We work closely with a full range of partners in the borough to target homelessness and thus have a robust system in place for the reporting and targeting of rough sleeping.”

Rough sleeping statistics.
Camden Council’s annual statements of people sleeping rough 2010-2016. Source: DCLG.

Camden Council has consistently maintained that it has very low numbers of rough sleepers. A year ago it said there were 15 rough sleepers and the year before only five.

Bloomsbury ward Councillor Rishi Madlani has asked the Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Association to address the council’s culture and environment scrutiny committee and present its criticisms of Camden’s estimate of rough sleeping in the borough. Fitzrovia News will also be carrying out a further investigation on why Camden Council is refusing to recognise the extend of rough sleeping on its patch.

Neighbouring Westminster City Council did a street count and told the DCLG that there were 260 people sleeping rough on a typical night last year, five fewer than the year before. However during a consultation on rough sleeping last year the Conservative run council admitted to around 300 people sleeping on its streets on any one night, and a group of volunteers found 461 people sleeping rough over three nights in the summer last year.

Official Statistics: London had 964 rough sleepers in autumn 2016, a rise of 3 percent compared with last year. Rough sleeping in England: autumn 2016.

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