Rise in rough sleeping in England 'a catastrophe'

By Agencies
January 26, 2018

Crisis has described the 15 per cent rise in rough sleeping in England as a ‘catastrophe’, following continual rises since 2010, when there is evidence to show how the problem can be fixed.

The Government’s official annual street count found that on a given night in autumn last year 4,751 people were recorded sleeping rough. This is more than double since 2010.

Crisis is also warning that the true number of rough sleepers is far greater, as its own research finds that more than 8,000 people were currently sleeping rough across England, predicted to rise to 15,000 by 2026, if nothing changes. This is on top of an additional 9,000 homeless people sleeping in tents, cars, trains and buses.

While Crisis welcomes the Government’s commitment to halve rough sleeping by 2022 and end it by 2027, it is urging it to take immediate action through its Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Taskforce to tackle this emergency situation and help the thousands of people forced to sleep in dangerous conditions every single night.

Worryingly, those sleeping without a roof over their head are almost 17 times more likely to have been victims of violence and 15 times more likely to have suffered verbal abuse compared to the general public, according to previous Crisis research.

Crisis has also published an evidence review undertaken by Cardiff University and Heriot-Watt University for the first time revealing the best evidence from here and around the world on what works to end rough sleeping.

The review finds the best way to end rough sleeping is by:

  • Widely adopting a housing-led approach where housing someone is made priority. This includes the use of Housing First, a programme which gives the most vulnerable rough sleepers their own home and specialist support.
  • Taking swift action to quickly end street homelessness through interventions such as No Second Night Out. This programme helps get people off the street and into accommodation and reduces the number of rough sleepers who develop further support needs.
  • Taking a ‘person-centred’ approach by tailoring support to take individuals’ needs into account, such as using personalised budgets to commission services.
  • Ensuring interventions take account of local housing markets and individuals’ needs.

Any strategy to address rough sleeping must address these principles and sit alongside good quality short term emergency accommodation and prevention services.

Chief Executive of Crisis Jon Sparkes said, “It is truly a catastrophe that in a country as prosperous as this, more and more people are finding themselves forced to sleep in dangerous and freezing conditions, when we have evidence to show how the situation could be turned around. Today’s report makes it only too clear that unless we take action as a society, the problem is only going to keep getting worse with every year that passes.

“Rough sleeping ruins lives, leaving people vulnerable to violence and abuse, and taking a dreadful toll on mental and physical health. Our research has shown how rough sleepers are 17 times more likely to be victims of violence. This is no way for anyone to live.

“With the right support at the right time, homelessness doesn’t need to be inevitable. While we warmly welcome the Government’s pledges to tackle rough sleeping, including a Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Taskforce, now that we know the solutions to end rough sleeping for good we’re calling on the Government to take swift action to tackle the problem and fix it once and for all.”

Also repsonding to the official figures, Cllr Martin Tett, Local Government Association Housing spokesman, said, “It is a tragedy when anyone becomes homeless and we know many people sleeping rough will be vulnerable to crime and exploitation and are likely to have complex support needs.

“Councils are currently housing more than 120,000 homeless children and are doing everything they can to prevent and solve homelessness, working closely with partners to place people into secure, appropriate accommodation and equip them with the skills to find work or ensure their health and wellbeing.

“If we want to end homelessness then councils need to be given the powers and funding to adapt welfare reforms and begin building affordable homes again.

“The Government needs to use the upcoming final Local Government Finance Settlement to accept the calls of both the LGA and the cross-party Treasury Select Committee, and completely scrap the cap on the amount councils can borrow to invest in new and existing homes.”

* Crisis https://www.crisis.org.uk/

* LGA https://www.local.gov.uk/

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