Official figures released today by the Department for Housing, Communities and Local Government show the number of rough sleepers counted on a single night in Autumn 2017 stands at 4751. Compared to the figure from a year ago, which stood at 4,134, this figure represents a 15% increase. This is the seventh consecutive year the rough sleeper count has increased.
This year’s figures represent an astonishing 168% increase on 2010 and comes amid growing public concern at in the number of people sleeping rough in England.
Housing Justice Church and Community Night Shelters Housing Justice estimate that winter night shelters in its Church and Community Night Shelter network welcomed approximately 5,800 guests during 2016/17. This represented a 50% increase in guest attendance on the previous year.
At the same time other forms of homelessness such as the number of people in temporary accommodation continues to rise. The most recent official statistics published by the government in September 2017 recorded 78,180 households in temporary accommodation at the end of June 2017. This marks the twenty-fourth time that the number of households in temporary accommodation is higher than in the same quarter a year previously. Of these households, 54,180 (69%) were placed in temporary accommodation in London. The number of families with dependent children placed in B&B-style accommodation increased from 740 at the end of June 2010 to 2,710 at the end of June 2017.
To estimate the rough sleeper number, local authorities supply an estimate which is then nationally aggregated. For some local authorities, gathering this data consists of sending teams out to count those who are bedded down on the street. However, in many Local Authorities an estimate is made instead, where authorities consult with the police force, health services, and local faith and community groups to gain an estimate on the number of likely rough sleepers.
For a rough sleeper to be included in the count, there are strict criteria, with the government definition counting ‘people sleeping, or bedded down, in the open air (such as on the streets, or in doorways, parks or bus shelters); people in buildings or other places not designed for habitation (such as barns, sheds, car parks, cars, derelict boats, stations, or ‘bashes’)’.
Housing Justice Chief Executive, Kathy Mohan said;
“Today’s data quantifies the scale of rough sleeping in our country, but behind each statistic is a story of personal tragedy and a failure of policy, the sum total of which is a homelessness crisis which the public is increasingly aware of and appalled by.
These figures should compel the government to re-double its efforts to address homelessness in all its forms, with a growing reservoir of hidden homelessness fuelling rough sleeping. Recent government measures to address rough sleeping are encouraging but we now need a national strategy, across all government departments working in partnership with third sector and faith and voluntary groups to reduce homelessness and bring these numbers down.”