Homeless London youths urged to sleep on night buses as charities struggle to cope

© Neil Hall
Homeless young people are being given tickets by a London charity so they can sleep on night buses, as the number of rough sleepers in the capital continues to rise under the Conservative government.

The New Horizon Day Centre, which seeks to provide accommodation for homeless young people, has revealed its staff regularly give out bus tickets when their emergency accommodation is full. 

The young people are given a ticket and advice on which bus routes to ride so they have a safe place to sleep, the charity said.

The revelation comes as levels of homelessness soar, prompting charity chiefs to criticize Conservative cuts to benefits.

New Horizon Day Centre says it is unable to deal with the increasing number of rough sleeping young people, adding that rising rents, reduction in hostel places, benefit cuts and changes to charity funding are responsible.

Some 55,090 households were designated as homeless by councils between July 2014 and June this year, compared to 39,480 during the same period in 2009/2010.

Fears have mounted that the number of families living in emergency bed and breakfast accommodation will continue to rise unsustainably. Their number rose 25 percent in the past year, from 2,130 in 2014 to 2,660 this year.

Shelter chief executive Campbell Robb blamed cuts to welfare for the rise.

“Deeper cuts to welfare will do no more than add fuel to the fire of this growing crisis,” he said.

“The only way for the government to break the cycle of homelessness, is to invest in building homes that people on lower incomes can actually afford.”

Director of the New Horizon Day Centre Shelagh O’Connor said the charity had been able to help everyone who needed a bed in 2010, but now it can only provide for an estimated 50 percent.

She said that night buses are a safer alternative to sleeping on the streets.

“We tell them which routes to choose, so that they will be travelling around all night. They come back in the morning and have some cereal and a shower.”

“It is a dire situation. It has never been as bad as this; I am extremely worried. It is so difficult at the moment and I can’t see any new strategies being put in place that might improve the situation. We are all aware of the dearth of accommodation in London and spiraling rents.