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2020 Insights – April 2020


In April 2020 London Housing Foundation launched a fully updated version of the Atlas of homelessness services. The 2020 release of the Atlas features updated information about services, as well as brand new information including a new visualisation showing specialist homelessness health services, and new data about the number of Housing First places by borough on the main London Map.  

At the time of writing, homelessness services in London are dramatically altered in their day-to-day running due to Covid-19. All the organisations reflected in the Atlas are part of the response to Covid-19, working to minimise the devastating impact the virus is having on people experiencing homelessness and related problems such as complex health needs. During this time services have had to change their provision radically – for example, day centres are no longer operating ‘open access’ sessions.

The Atlas provides an overview of service provision during ‘business as usual’, as opposed to reflecting the reality during this crisis response period. For example, the data reflects information about hostel/supported housing spaces, but it does not show that more than 1,000 people are now self-isolating in hotels and other safe locations across the capital as part of the emergency response to Covid-19.

We are likely to see changes in the ongoing provision of services post-Covid-19, and if so, the Atlas will be adjusted to reflect this in the coming months and years.

Headlines from the 2020 Atlas

Rough sleeping figures

  • Figures from CHAIN show that 9,158 people were contacted rough sleeping in London by outreach teams across the whole period 2018/19. This compares with 7,484 people contacted rough sleeping in 2017/18, as published in last year’s Atlas.
  • The single night official street counts and estimates found that 1,136 people were sleeping rough on a single night in London in 2019, a slight decrease on the previous year (1,283). The street counts and estimates collect information about those located sleeping rough on a particular night; inevitably they do not reflect the full picture of people sleeping rough.
  • These figures will be updated in the Atlas when new data becomes available.

Taking stock of service provision

  • The Atlas shows that there are nearly 9,900 supported housing and hostel accommodation spaces in ‘single homelessness’ services.
  • Seven boroughs have more than 500 bed spaces: Westminster, Tower Hamlets, Camden, Lambeth, Waltham Forest, Islington and Kensington and Chelsea. Although Waltham Forest does not have correspondingly high rough sleeping levels, a large YMCA is situated just within the borough boundary.
  • No bed spaces were identified in the outer London boroughs of Sutton, Havering and Bexley.  A caveat to data on accommodation bed spaces is that sometimes the location of a project does not correspond to the local authority residents are from – for example, some boroughs may spot-purchase or contract a certain number of bed spaces in a project located in another borough.

The diversity of organisations

  • The data compiled shows that there are over 130 organisations providing single homelessness services in London.
  • When services are ordered by provider (you can do this on the Infographic, it reveals that a great many services in London are not part of a larger organisation but are rather stand-alone or independent services that do not have other projects in London. Examples range from many local day centres including Spires in Lambeth to accommodation such as the Missionaries of Charity in Southwark.
  • If organisations are ranked by the volume of bed spaces, independent services account for the most spaces, followed by St Mungo’s, Look Ahead and YMCA St Paul’s Group.
  • Many large accommodation projects are not situated on one site, but are dispersed units across several sites managed as a single service, including many supported housing projects.

The breadth of the sector

  • The Atlas provides information on wide-ranging services from the initial response to rough sleeping, outreach teams, assessment centres and day centres to the number of Clearing House units per borough. A few key findings on selected services are below.

Housing First

  • This year for the first time we have collected information on the size of Housing First projects. We identified 17 Housing First schemes for a total of 261 people.
  • Seven Housing First projects are delivered by St Mungo’s, followed by Single Homeless Project which runs five Housing First projects.


  • Seven boroughs rely on the GLA-commissioned London Street Rescue service for street outreach and 26 commissioned their own outreach services.
  • Twenty-four are also covered by the Rapid Response Team, a new GLA commissioned service tasked with responding to new rough sleepers reported to Streetlink, to enable local outreach teams to focus on existing clients. Thames Reach is commissioned to provide London Street Rescue and Rapid Response Team.
  • St Mungo’s is the largest provider of outreach services, providing many of the borough-commissioned teams and 11 teams overall.

Pan-London assessment centres and winter shelters

  • Since 2011 pan-London assessment centres have provided an integral part of the rapid response to rough sleeping in London. The Atlas shows that in 2020 there are three No Second Night Out assessment hubs, as well as several ‘staging posts’ that provide emergency shelter. Together these services provide 187 spaces for people who have been contacted sleeping rough by outreach teams in London. St Mungo’s is commissioned by the GLA to provide these services.
  • Data collection from night shelters and winter shelters found that these provide nearly 650 bed spaces when they are all in operation across London; some open for a few of the coldest months of the year, while others have developed full ‘night shelter’ services open all year round.

Clearing House

  • The Clearing House offers social rented housing provided by 40 social landlords to 3,800 people at any one time. Most tenants receive support from the Tenancy Sustainment Teams commissioned by the GLA and provided by St Mungo’s and Thames Reach. The Clearing House has been a vital pathway enabling thousands of people to move on from rough sleeping and hostel accommodation. It was established over 25 years ago as part of the 1990 Rough Sleepers’ Initiative.
  • The boroughs with the highest number of Clearing House flats are Hackney, Islington, Lambeth, Southwark and Tower Hamlets.      

Health services

  • The health infographic is a new area of the Atlas. In the first data collection on specialist health services we identified 38 specific homelessness health services for people with experience of or at risk of rough sleeping, as well as 16 day centres offering health services.
  • Thirteen of the services identified were specialist primary care, largely GP services. The next largest category was hospital discharge services (12), five of these are Pathway teams, three are delivered by St Mungo’s. 

GLA-funded services

  • Another new area of the Atlas is the GLA-funded services infographic. This shows that the Mayor’s office commission services to tackle rough sleeping amounting to more than £19 million per year.
  • There are four strands of funding, from street outreach (such as London Street Rescue) to immediate routes from rough sleeping (including No Second Night Out assessment hubs), to longer-term solutions including Tenancy Sustainment Teams and support to rebuild lives including the Homeless Health Peer Advocacy Service delivered by Groundswell. There is also a Rough Sleeping Innovation Fund providing the opportunity for organisations to test new ideas outside the commissioned suite of services.