Rough sleeping in England continues to soar. New figures released today by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) show a rise of 15 per cent in the year to autumn 2017.
According to official statistics, there were 4,751 rough sleepers in England in autumn 2017 – a rise of more than 400, year-on-year.
These figures represent the number of people sleeping rough on a ‘typical night’ and are the highest since current records began. Rough sleeping has now risen by 169 per cent since 2010, when 1,768 people were counted sleeping rough.
It’s clear we’ll have to do something radical to prevent more people becoming homeless
Lord John Bird, The Big Issue’s founder, issued a call to action in the wake of the statistics. He said: “These alarm bell-ringing figures show the urgent need for action on rough sleeping.
“It’s clear we’ll have to do something radical to prevent more people becoming homeless.
“Governments need to gets serious about taking long-term measures to prevent poverty. That means stopping the brutal cuts to local councils’ budgets, which lead to more and more people slipping through the cracks in the system.”
The news could be about to get even worse. Bird warned in October that this winter was set to be the worst for homelessness since the 1990s.
And Homelessness charity Crisis believe the true homelessness figures to be far, far higher. Their own research suggests more than 8,000 people are currently sleeping rough in England.
(2/3) However the true number of rough sleepers is likely to be far greater – our own research has found that more than 8,000 people are currently sleeping rough across England. This number is predicted to rise to 15,000 by 2026 if nothing changes: https://t.co/0r87GM3vWP
— Crisis (@crisis_uk) January 25, 2018
This continued rise in rough sleeping will come as little surprise to many people.
To spend time in towns or city centres across the UK now is to come face to face with the people whose precarious living situations form these shocking statistics.
Reaction to the statistics has been loud and damning. Youth homelessness charity Centrepoint pointed to the 29% rise in young rough sleepers as hugely worrying.
We know there are thousands more young people who are hidden homeless
Balbir Chatrick, Centrepoint’s Director of Policy, said: “These figures are shocking, but they only attempt to count the number of people sleeping rough on one night.
“We know there are thousands more young people who are hidden homeless – sofa-surfing for months on end, sleeping on public transport, or staying with strangers just to find a bed for the night.
“If the government is serious about breaking the cycle of homelessness it must start by measuring the problem properly and then providing adequate funding to solve it.”
The government has vowed to halve rough sleeping by 2022, and completely eradicate rough sleeping by 2027. And, 15 months ago, Theresa May used the occasion of The Big Issue’s 25th anniversary to announce “a new £40 million package to both prevent and tackle the causes of homelessness.”
Commenting on the latest statistics, an MHCLG spokesperson said: “No one should ever have to sleep rough. That’s why this Government is committed to halving rough sleeping by 2022 and eliminating it altogether by 2027.
“To break the homelessness cycle once and for all, we are providing over £1 billion of funding, supporting rough sleepers with the most complex needs through a new Housing First approach and bringing in the most ambitious legislation in decades that will mean people get the support they need earlier.
“In addition a new cross-Government taskforce supported by a panel of experts will drive forward a new strategy that will make life on the streets a thing of the past.”
However, these latest figures show that more needs to be done.
And Shadow Housing Secretary John Healey was quick to condemn the government’s continued failure to quell the rise in rough sleeping.
New rough sleeping figures an awful reminder of the consequences of a Conservative government. Number of rough sleepers has more than DOUBLED compared to 2010 and is up 73% in the last three years alone. pic.twitter.com/wF8QWsJ2mb
— John Healey MP (@JohnHealey_MP) January 25, 2018
In total, more than 92,000 people have sold The Big Issue since 1991 to help themselves work their way out of poverty – more than could fit into Wembley Stadium.