Lockdown warning: sofa-surfing Londoners shut out by coronavirus

Londoners have always opened their doors for friends and family with nowhere to go – but under the threat of coronavirus people are being forced to close their doors, new research I have commissioned shows.

I asked Londoners if they had had to turn anyone away who was looking for a place to stay, because of concerns about coronavirus.

Four per cent of Londoners – approximately 146,000 households – said they had had to turn someone away to whom they usually would have offered a bed or sofa in a crisis.

The new survey also showed that 8 per cent of Londoners – approximately 290,000 households – had someone staying with them currently, or had let someone stay with them in the past year, who would otherwise have been homeless.

Last time I commissioned a survey from YouGov asking the same question, we found that 10 per cent of Londoners were either currently hosting someone facing homelessness, or had in the past year.

Today I said:

“This data is extremely worrying, especially as we enter tighter lockdown restrictions on households mixing indoors. Hundreds of thousands of Londoners have told me friends or family have turned to them for a roof over their heads in the past year. And even more worrying is the number who have had to turn people away during the six months of the coronavirus crisis, at nearly 150,000.

“The number of people with nowhere left to turn will continue to rise without urgent intervention from Government to help people who are struggling to pay their rent.

“Allowing landlords to evict tenants is not only morally wrong, it puts more pressure onto councils to help people facing homelessness and, as this research shows, onto friends and family who are less able to help than before.

“Government should be supporting people more, whether through further suspension of evictions and a rent forgiveness scheme. Without these basic protections more Londoners will end up without a roof over their heads.”

The London Assembly Housing Committee report I published in 2017, Hidden Homelessness, found that a wide range of people become homeless and end up temporarily housed out of sight of public services, with young people and LBGT+ Londoners particularly affected as they find it hard to get help from the authorities or prove vulnerability.

Details of my YouGov survey:
All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1,036 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 10th – 15th September 2020. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all London adults (aged 18+).

Read the full results of the survey here