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Homeless Link research reveals a growing proportion of people sleeping rough on London’s streets are Central and Eastern Europeans

Today Homeless Link has released the results of a survey that indicates that destitution amongst Central and Eastern Europeans is increasing in the capital. Following a baseline survey in November 2007, current research records an increase in the percentage of rough sleepers from the 8 accession countries from 18% to 25% of people sleeping on London’s streets.

More detailed analysis of the information suggests that, while the number of Central and Eastern European rough sleepers has reduced in several of the inner London boroughs that have had long standing issues with this population and taken action to address the issue, numbers have increased significantly in some outer London areas.

Jenny Edwards, Chief Executive of Homeless Link, the national umbrella organisation for frontline homelessness charities, said, “The results of our research have wide reaching implications not only for homelessness charities, but also local and national Government. While the majority of migrants from Central and Eastern Europe successfully find employment and accommodation in this country, it is unacceptable that some should find themselves forced into destitution on our streets as a result of restrictions to their social benefits and without the wherewithal to return home.

The report comes at a time of extreme financial uncertainty for many of our member agencies when their services are under real pressure as a result of the economic conditions. We are extremely disappointed therefore that, despite the hard work of Homeless Link and member agencies to try to find solutions, the research demonstrates an increase in the proportion of people from the accession countries sleeping on the streets of London. Some of the most significant initiatives to address this issue in Central London have only started since the survey was completed. Obviously we hope they will go some way to addressing this social problem, but more needs to be done.”

Communities and Local Government (CLG) recognise this issue and have provided funding to some London boroughs to help them tackle rough sleeping among A10 nationals.

Jenny Edwards continued, “Results from other studies across Europe indicate a growing problem in other European cities. We welcome this commitment from CLG and believe that this will have a real impact. However growing destitute street homelessness requires a wider acceptance of responsibility in Government and local government. Recent CLG initiatives support the Prime Minister’s recent commitment to ‘step up efforts to tackle rough sleeping among new migrant populations’. However, we call on the European Union to ensure that all national governments across Europe rapidly commit to ensuring a safety net of protection that ensures everyone has the basic human right of a roof over their head, a meal on the table and the ability to return home.”


1. About Homeless Link’s Action Plan to reduce rough sleeping amongst Central and Eastern Europeans (CEEs) in London.

Funded by CLG, this piece of work builds on an earlier Homeless Link report written in 2006 in response to a growing concern from Homeless Link’s member agencies that the number of people from Central and Eastern Europe accessing their services was increasing.

The action plan and its outcomes are split into 8 key areas, namely reconnection and return home (for those that want to); access to and protection in employment; communication on available services; work in Central and Eastern European States; accommodation; support needs of Central and Eastern Europeans; support needs of homelessness agencies and staff; and incentives and enforcement.

For more information on Homeless Link’s Action Plan for reducing rough sleeping among Central and Eastern Europeans in London, please see http://www.homeless.org.uk/policyandinfo/issues/EU10s/ceeactionplan.pdf 

For more information on Homeless Link’s other work with Central and Eastern Europeans, please visit http://www.homeless.org.uk/policyandinfo/issues/EU10s/ 

2. About the current research

The November 2008 survey was repeated a year on from the baseline survey using the same methodology to provide an updated picture of the current rough sleeping situation for CEE nationals in London. This new report details these findings. The methodology is described in detail in the report.

As in the 2007 survey, using datasets from the survey and from CHAIN aims to provide a fuller picture of rough sleeping amongst Central and Eastern Europeans. In both years there was a difference in the number of individuals recorded in the survey and on CHAIN. This could be due to the different rates of regular reporting amongst outreach teams to CHAIN. It should also be noted that Homeless Link’s survey may include some individuals who were recorded by more than one outreach team.

3. Highlights of Homeless Link’s practical and policy based solutions to reduce rough sleeping amongst CEEs in London

Since June 2008, Homeless Link has provided support to the voluntary sector through its Action Plan. This has involved a range of lobbying activity which so far has resulted in securing two major initiatives that are very much in their early stages which we hope will help to reduce rough sleeping amongst CEEs in London, namely:

• Proposed the development of a London Reconnections Team, now funded by CLG and being run by Homeless Link member, Thames Reach, a project which will help vulnerable rough sleepers from Central and Eastern Europe to return to their homeland.

• Supported the development of an employment and reconnection based accommodation project for clients from Central and Eastern Europe. This is a pilot project, called the Olallo project, which is run by the charity Saint John of God.

And other practical solutions based support, such as:

• Provided key information on our website for the homelessness sector and local authorities on entitlements, accommodation, reconnection (including details of services abroad) and services in London for this group, including embassy details

• Work in progress investigating the expansion of two specialist support solutions around employment for this client group

• Held a number of events for frontline workers, for example on helping CEEs into employment, and a training course specifically designed for working with this group

4. About CHAIN

CHAIN is London’s most comprehensive and widely used database on homelessness, rough sleeping and the street population. Over 80 projects contribute information to CHAIN and this is increasing as the team expand the system to more agencies across London. For more information on the information available on CHAIN, visit: http://broadway.jamkit.com/CHAIN 

5. About Homeless Link

Homeless Link is the national membership organisation for frontline homelessness agencies in England. Our mission is to be a catalyst that will help to bring an end to homelessness. Our two goals are:

o To raise standards in the services that support homeless people and tackle homelessness
o To influence the development of policy, strategy and investment at all levels of government.

Homeless Link’s member organisations provide services through: hostels, day centres, outreach and resettlement agencies, housing advice centres, youth projects, health projects, welfare rights groups, regional and sub-regional homelessness networks, refuges, drug and alcohol services and church groups.

6. About homelessness and Central and Eastern Europeans in this country

Recent expansion of the European Union has led to an increase in migration from Central and Eastern Europe to Britain. When the EU expanded in 2004, certain limitations were placed on the entitlements of citizens from 8 out of 10 of the accession countries: Poland, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, Slovenia, Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic.

National from these Accession 8 (A8) countries can come to the UK to work, but can have limited or no access to social provisions and benefits. The two nations that acceded in 2007, Romania and Bulgaria (A2 nationals) are subject to further restrictions.

The majority of migrants from Central and Eastern Europe successfully obtain employment and accommodation in the UK. However, as a result of restrictions to social provision and benefits, options are very limited for the minority who find themselves homeless.

Further information

If you would like more information on the research or on Homeless Link or if you would like a more detailed conversation about the relevance of this announcement to homelessness strategy, please contact:

Gill Perkins, Head of Communications at Homeless Link on 020 7960 3025 or 07881 921476 or gill.perkins@homelesslink.org.uk 
Homeless Link
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10-13 Rushworth Street

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