Charity finds 251 people sleeping on streets of London

 A total of 251 people were found sleeping rough on London streets on Saturday morning. The annual headcount, carried out by the Simon Community homeless charity, found people sleeping on the streets of the boroughs of Westminster, Southwark, Islington, Kensington and Chelsea, Lambeth, City of London and Tower Hamlets. The last headcount, in October 2002 found 302 people. Prior to that, in April 2002, 266 people were found. A Simon community spokesperson said: "Overall, this is hardly evidence of the dramatic reduction that has been claimed." Immediately before carrying out the count, the charity contacted 60 hostels in Central London. Of 3943 beds, only 13 were available. Seven of the vacant beds were only available to young people under the age of 26. The number of young people sleeping rough is known to be considerably higher. According to Big Issue, 30,000 children run away from home and are forced to sleep rough each year, while there are only six emergency beds for them in the whole of the UK. In addition to those sleeping rough, there are over 50,000 single adults as well as families living in temporary accommodation, which includes B & Bs, hostels, night shelters and squats in London. Nationally, the figure is over 400,000. The spokesperson said: "As part of its strategy to eradicate social exclusion, the government pledged to provide 'a decent home for all'. Clearly, a great deal remains to be done before this pledge is fulfilled." Founded by lay Catholics, the Simon Community has worked with homeless people since 1963 in both Britain and Ireland. The organisation which is independent of the government's Homelessness Directorate says it "does not believe that the fundamental problems associated with social exclusion are tackled by merely placing a roof over a person's head. These problems include poverty, alcohol and drug dependence, relationship breakdown and bereavement, and physical/sexual abuse."

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