Poverty and Inequality

26.01.17

Rough sleeping numbers skyrocket by 16% in last year

The number of rough sleepers in England has increased by 16% in the past year, over double the figure declared in 2010, new figures have revealed.

DCLG statistics on rough sleepers in autumn 2016 revealed that local authorities estimated 4,134 rough sleepers on a single night in 2016, up from 3,569 in 2015 and 1,768 in 2010.

Of all local authorities, the City of Westminster declared the highest number of rough sleepers at 260, followed by Brighton and Hove with 144 and Cornwall with 99.

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of the homelessness charity Crisis, said the number of rough sleepers is continuing to rise at an “appalling rate”.

“Rough sleeping ruins lives, leaving people vulnerable to violence and abuse, and taking a dreadful toll on their mental and physical health,” Sparkes said.

“There is no time to waste. We need the government to take action on this issue, and we stand ready to work with officials to plan and deliver an ambitious new approach.”

A survey undertaken by Crisis last year revealed that rough sleepers are almost 17 times more likely to have been victims of violence than members of the general public.

The charity has praised the government’s recent initiative in expanding homelessness prevention with the Homelessness Reduction Bill but has asked it to extend this approach to people who are already on the street.

In December, Shelter revealed that homelessness in England now affects over a quarter of a million people. The LGA said that councils are doing all they can to prevent and solve spreading homelessness but need more assistance in tackling the wider causes of the problem.

Cllr Martin Tett, housing spokesman for the LGA, said: “Funding pressures are combining with a lack of affordable housing and rents continuing to rise above household incomes to leave many councils struggling to cope with rising homelessness and to find suitable accommodation for those in need, particularly those who are young, vulnerable, or with families.

“The government needs to give councils the powers and funding to resume their historic role as a major builder of affordable homes and to address the widening gap between incomes and rents. This is vital to end homelessness.”

Recently, Westminster City Council announced plans to send homeless families to live in temporary accommodation to properties as far away as the West Midlands. In a cabinet member’s report on the council’s homelessness policies, the local authority has said that rising homelessness, complete with housing benefit cuts and rent rises, has left it with no option but to send more families into affordable, private accommodation outside of the capital.

(Image c. Trowbridge Estate)

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