While the homeless crisis in London has been signalled by the huge rise in people sleeping rough up to 12,500 others make do on sofas and public transport and even trade sex for a bed, writes Adwoa Korkoh
They are the capital’s ‘hidden homeless’ who go unrecognised in official figures and are not eligible for support from the authorities, forcing them to seek dangerous and insecure forms of accommodation.
Sian Berry, chair of the London Assembly housing committee, said: “So-called sofa surfing is common and people can end up staying with virtual strangers where they are vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.”
One of those featured in the report is ‘Theresa’ whose funding for her PHD studies ran out in her final year and she was unable to pay her rent. Initially, she was able to sleep on friends’ sofas and floors, but soon she overstayed her welcome. When she has no place to go she has to scrape together what little money she can find to pay for hostels. She says she finds this extremely difficult to deal with, not knowing where she will sleep from one night to the next, on top of the added pressure of her research.
Another case study, 21 year old Corey told the report, which was published last month: “I found myself in terrible environments. I slept on doorsteps, sometimes family doorsteps. I slept in Euston station. I tried to sleep on buses.”
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.
“To have so many people homeless in 2017 is quite simply a national disgrace and something we must act on now.”