Rory pledges to halve rough sleeping by end of first term as London Mayor

Rory pledges to halve rough sleeping by end of first term as London Mayor

With the number of people sleeping rough in London having doubled over the last decade - to almost 9,000 people last year - Rory Stewart, has pledged to not only stem the rise, but halve that number by the end of his first term in office.

In recent months Rory has spent extensive time with charities, outreach workers, and rough sleepers - hearing firsthand about their experiences - and this has been a core element informing his rough sleeping plan.

Rory Stewart, Independent Candidate for Mayor of London, has said: 

“Every Londoner will be painfully aware of the tragic rise in the number of people sleeping rough on our streets. But the Mayor has not got a grip on it. Sadiq Khan has simply sprinkled some money here, and some hope there - not properly grabbing and addressing the issue. 

“The levels of rough sleeping in this city is a situation that shames us all, but no-one more than the Mayor - who has not taken sufficient action on this issue. 

“This is not compassionate; people are suffering on the streets of our city, and we cannot allow this situation to continue. Whilst there is a lot of good work happening, it is often disjointed - and there is an absence of leadership and co-ordination from City Hall. Both national Government and the Mayor need to step up, because with energy and focus we can bring these numbers down - and if I was elected I wouldn’t rest until I did. 

“People sleeping rough deserve better, London deserves better, it’s time for less politics, more action.”

Rory Stewart, who is running as an Independent Candidate for London Mayor, will achieve this reduction in rough sleeping through a number of linked initiatives: 


  • Rapidly roll out Housing First across London, an approach which prioritises placing long-term rough-sleepers into housing - getting them off the street - and then providing the wraparound services to keep them off permanently. 


    • Rory will launch 1,000 Housing First places within two years of taking office. 
    • As Prisons Minister, Rory trialled “Housing First”, an innovative approach to re-housing former offenders with success, in Bristol, Leeds and around Pentonville.

  • Launch a Rough Sleepers Unit, modelled on the one set up by New Labour in 1999, and based in City Hall. This unit will answer directly to the Mayor. This unit will provide real-time data on performance across London, and will drive better coordination between local authorities and charities; to unite approaches where possible; and to get funding where it is needed most.

  • Create 30 “Mayoral Stewards”, who will be responsible for coordinating efforts in the 15 most acute hotspots where the vast majority of London’s rough sleepers are. By working in the areas where the need is greatest - not restricted by the arbitrary lines of local government boundaries - they will be nimble and responsive, and provide a direct line to the Mayor’s Office.


  • Understand the complexities of rough sleeping: these new teams will have expertise and training in how to deal with the realities of who is sleeping rough on our streets. Special focus will go on ensuring that the specific needs of veterans, women, LGBTQ+ people, former offenders and other groups are met. 


Often unspoken is the fact that, at present, half of London’s rough sleepers are migrants - many of whose challenges haven’t been fully grasped. Frequently they fall outside of the current system, and sometimes fall prey to gangs - getting caught up in London’s growing crime crisis. Rory’s teams would address this by assisting them with often inaccessible administrative processes, helping them to attain the rights and benefits they are entitled to. Where criminal cartels are involved in human trafficking or other exploitation of vulnerable rough sleepers, Rory will ensure law enforcement responds swiftly.

If you are interested in an interview with Rory, or would like any further details, please do not hesitate to get in touch. Alternatively, if you would like to be added to the Rory for London campaign updates WhatsApp group, please email


Notes to editors: 

Rough Sleeping Figures 

Numbers of rough sleepers 

  • 2009-10: 3673
  • 2018-19: 8855

Source: Annual CHAIN figures published by the Greater London Authority. Figures are derived from the Combined Homelessness and Information Network (CHAIN), a multi-agency database recording information about rough sleepers and the wider street population in London. CHAIN, which is commissioned and funded by the Greater London Authority (GLA) and managed by St Mungo’s, represents the UK’s most detailed and comprehensive source of information about rough sleeping. 


What is ‘Housing First’? 

'Housing First' is a recovery-oriented approach that centres on quickly moving people experiencing homelessness into independent and permanent housing and then providing additional support and services as needed. Housing is provided first and then other support is provided including physical and mental health, education, employment, substance abuse and community connections. This intervention is only appropriate for a subset of the rough sleeping population (those with the most complex needs).

The Housing First approach has been trialled in major cities across the UK, most notably in Greater Manchester and Liverpool. 

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