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2019 Atlas Insights

2019 Atlas Insights


The new Atlas of London’s homelessness services was launched on 28th January 2019. This initial launch was the culmination of several months of work on the development of the maps for the site using Tableau, data collection, website design and user testing.

Each year we will undertake a full refresh of the data; in the interim, we will make additions, corrections and improvements to the live site, as necessary. Developments to the site will also be undertaken over time – for example, adding new maps and datasets.

Following each annual data refresh the LHF will provide a commentary on the data. This first insights commentary highlights some of the key findings from the 2019 Atlas.

Headline figures on rough sleeping

  • Figures from CHAIN show that just under 7,484 people were contacted rough sleeping in London by outreach teams across the whole period 2017/18. The single night official street counts and estimates found that 1,137 were sleeping rough on a single night in London in 2017. These figures will be updated in the Atlas when new data becomes available.

Taking stock of service provision

  • The Atlas reveals that there are nearly 9,000 accommodation bed spaces for single homeless people in London.
  • Five boroughs have more than 500 bed spaces: Westminster, Tower Hamlets, Camden, Waltham Forest and Islington. Although Waltham Forest does not have correspondingly high rough sleeping levels, a large YMCA is situated just within the borough boundary.
  • The lowest numbers of bed spaces were in outer borough locations including Bexley and Merton.
  • 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 122 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 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.
  • After this group of independent services, the most common provider (in terms of the number of services) is St Mungo’s, followed by Centrepoint and Look Ahead Care and Support. If organisations are ranked by the volume of bed spaces rather than the number of services, YMCA St Paul’s Group is the second largest provider.
  • 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 first 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.


  • Twenty boroughs commission a local service to provide the street outreach for rough sleepers in their area. Eight boroughs rely on the GLA-commissioned London Street Rescue (LSR) service for street outreach. Three boroughs contribute additional funds to the LSR service to boost provision in their area and two areas have their own outreach service and also utilise LSR.
  • Thames Reach is commissioned to provide LSR.
  • St Mungo’s is the largest provider of outreach services, providing many of the borough-commissioned teams.

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 2019 there are three No Second Night Out assessment hubs, as well as several ‘staging posts’ which provide emergency shelter. Together these services provide up to 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 winter shelters provide nearly 600 bed spaces when they are all in operation – 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

  • We are pleased to be able to present figures on the number of Clearing House units per borough for the first time in the new Atlas.
  • The Clearing House offers social rented housing provided by 40 social landlords to more than 3,700 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.

Housing First

  • The first Housing First project in England was the Camden pilot project, which started in in 2010. In late 2018 our data collection showed Housing First services operating in ten London boroughs.

A note on timeseries analysis

Several people have asked us about whether year-on-year analysis will be possible.  At some agreed point in the year (around 12 weeks after the initial publication of data) we will take a download that will form the basis for year-on-year or timeseries analysis so we can provide an indication of trends in the sector over time. We can therefore provide year-on-year analysis once we build up two or more years’ worth of data. This analysis will be imperfect and come with caveats – for example, the restructuring of accommodation in a borough might see less ‘single homelessness’ accommodation. This could, on the one hand, reflect a negative trend with less priority being given to rough sleepers or, on the other hand, could reflect reduced length of stay in accommodation due to more effective move-on.  Although the Atlas provides the top-line figures and shows that something interesting is happening, sometimes there will be a need for further qualitative and quantitative investigation to get behind the figures.

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