1052 GMT April 16, 2021
The latest survey found 3,103 people on London’s streets between July and September 2018 — the first time the total has exceeded 3,000 in a three-month period, theguardian.com reported.
Charities attributed the surge to a lack of affordable housing.
In an attempt to improve accommodation for people staying in night shelters, the 999 Club in Deptford, southeast London, has introduced fireproof containers to give overnight guests more personal space.
The new wooden pods — which are 2.1 meters high, 2.1 meters long and 1.9 meters wide — provide a mattress and storage space, and have curtains for privacy.
“If you get 20 to 30 people sleeping here it can be hard to get privacy — and a big problem for people is snoring,” said 999 Club’s chief executive, Tim Fallon.
“The pods offer a little bit more security.”
One of the first occupants of a pod was, Mark, 54, who has been staying at the 999 Club for three weeks. He slept on a mattress on the floor before the pods arrived.
“[They] are brilliant and give you more room and space. They are small but you still get privacy,” he said.
“I had been staying in my car before I came here … but the pods are comfortable and you can pull the curtain down if you don’t want to be disturbed.”
The pods were designed by the architect Reed Watts, which was selected in an open competition held by the charity Commonweal Housing in 2017. The charity had researched the lives of migrant workers living in tent encampments in London and wanted to find a solution for reusable, short-term accommodation that could be installed in halls and empty and underused buildings.
A prototype was built earlier this year and tested out at the 999 Club and Housing Justice in Hillingdon, west London. The initial model was then refined in size and the raised mattress platform was added, to create the latest version installed last week.
Fallon said the pods are easy to install and move, if a little small.
“It would be nice if they had a proper door but it’s quite hard to do that … Within what we are trying to do this is a pretty good attempt. It’s not a permanent home and for a night shelter setting they are ideal. All you need is the space and you can get a team of volunteers to put them up.”
The pods in Deptford cost about £700 each.
Fallon said they are a simple solution to the growing homelessness crisis.
Figures from the Combined Homelessness and Information Network show that the number of rough sleepers in London rose by 20 percent on the previous three months, and by 17 percent compared with the same period last year. Outreach teams also recorded 1,382 people sleeping rough for the first time, up by 28 percent on the previous period and a rise of 20 percent on last year.
It mirrors a growing trend across England. This week Labour pledged £100 million a year in additional help for rough sleepers in cold weather, which the party says is key to reducing the unacceptably high number of homeless people who die each year.
“When I first started working here the typical homeless person would be a middle-aged guy” who might have a few problems, said Fallon.
“But that pattern has changed and we now see lots of people who become homeless for lots of different reasons.
“Now we see people who might have been living in the private rented sector and their landlord ended their tenancy and they have nowhere else to go … We’ve also got lots of people working who can’t afford to rent in London.”
Fallon said he sees people working for high street retailers in the West End who have to get up every morning, shower and go off to do a day’s work.
“When people come in they often want to go to bed really early as they have not had sleep for a long time. They fall asleep at 10:30 p.m. … they find it peaceful.”