Thousands of ‘hidden homeless’ people sleep in dangerous conditions in London every night, a damning report has found.
As many as 12,500 people are forced to stay with strangers and sleep on public transport every night in the capital, leaving them at serious risk of assault, according to a study compiled by the London Assembly - writes standard.co.uk.
But London's ‘hidden homeless’, who are often not recognised in official figures as they find shelter in places such as illegal squats, are not receiving vital support from councils, the report added.
It found the only one in five people aged 16 to 24 seek help from local councils.
Young people who are LGBT or have been victims of domestic violence or abuse are most likely to be affected.
A homelessness charity branded the findings a “national disgrace” and called on local authorities and the Government to act on the findings.
Keegan Robert-Kelly was kicked out of his home at the age of 15 and soon found himself sleeping in hallways at housing blocks in north west London.
The 21-year-old said he was brutally attacked by three drunken passersby as he slept on the streets.
“Last year, I was roof sleeping and got attacked by three drunk guys. I broke my nose I lost sight in one eye for a while.”He told the Standard : “It all happened due to a family breakdown. My mum had issues with drugs and alcohol and my dad was never around.
He added: “I thought it was very bad because the buck was just being passed, they just kept sending me from post to post.
“I’ve met a lot of people who’ve gone through the same thing. It’s shocking how there are so many people just hidden in plain sight.”
The report found that many of the capital’s hidden homeless were ineligible for Government support as they are not considered a “priority need”.
Sian Berry, chair of the London Assembly housing committee said: “Young people, asylum seekers and people escaping domestic violence can find it hard to get help due to gaps in current policies, and many don’t even try to seek help.
Terrie Alafat, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing, said: “As this report highlights there are many more people affected by homelessness that we don’t know about.“So-called sofa surfing is common and people can end up staying with virtual strangers where they are vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.”
“To have so many people homeless in 2017 is quite simply a national disgrace and something we must act on now.”
The Government has introduced the Homelessness Reduction Act, which will change strict housing rules in the UK. It will likely not come into force until next year.
A Government spokesman said: "Tackling homelessness is a complex issue with no single solution, but this government is determined to help the most vulnerable in society.
“We're investing £550 million to 2020 to address the issue and implementing the most ambitious legislative reform in decades, the Homelessness Reduction Act. This Act means more people get the help they need earlier to prevent them from becoming homeless in the first place."
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