Today’s (Thursday 31 January) rough sleeping figures for London  underline why Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union, has given shelter to a number of  people who are homeless for at least three nights during one of the coldest winter snaps so far.

Unite has responded  to mayor of London Sadiq Khan’s call to offer space for ‘pop up shelters’, as many of the capital’s shelters are already at over capacity. The mayor is working with homeless charity St Mungos which is servicing and staffing the shelters.

The people who are homeless were being supported by St Mungo’s staff during their stay at Unite’s Holborn offices which started last night (Wednesday 30 January). Unite’s involvement is a response to the London mayor’s ‘Severe Weather Emergency Provision’ programme.

The number of people sleeping rough in London increased by 146 or 13 per cent.  London accounted for 27 per cent of the total number of people sleeping rough in England, up from 24 per cent in 2017. These figures are based on a snapshot carried out on a single night by local authorities.

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “Unite has been proud to help out during these bitter cold nights, but we are under no illusion that so much more needs to be done to tackle this increasing tide of human misery. 

“The UK is the sixth biggest economy on the planet; it ought to be capable of putting a roof over the head of every citizen, but the fact that it does not is the direct consequence of failed Conservative austerity policies.

“Today’s latest figures make very depressing reading and Theresa May needs to acknowledge that the harsh austerity regime is not over by a long chalk. 

“The people, who slept in camp beds at Unite’s headquarters, have no place to call home, which is a tragic reminder that the government’s continuing cuts are destroying lives.

“I want to thank Unite’s members at St Mungo’s for the incredible work they do to provide help for people in need all the year round, but especially at this time of year, when the weather can be so cruel and unforgiving.

“I also want to thank Sadiq Khan for the work his office does to put roofs over heads and to remind us all that we can’t just walk on by in 2019.”

Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, said: “No one should be sleeping rough in this freezing weather, which is why our emergency shelters are open across the capital every night the temperature drops to zero, offering rough sleepers somewhere warm to stay and further support to help them off the streets for good.

“As the bitter cold continues, it’s great to see Unite using their office space to provide extra shelter for those in need, and I urge Londoners who are concerned about anyone they see sleeping rough to refer them to StreetLink, so they can get the help they need.”


Photos of Len McCluskey and Sadiq Khan speaking to St Mungo’s staff are available.

The mayor launched his rough sleeping campaign at the end of November 2018, raising money for the London Homeless Charities Group, a coalition of charities working to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping.

For more information on the campaign and the work the mayor is doing, visit

Londoners are being urged to refer rough sleepers to StreetLink @Tell_StreetLink  which exists to help end rough sleeping by enabling members of the public to connect people sleeping rough with the local services that can support them.

For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940. Unite press office is on:  020 3371 2065


  • Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.