William Eichler 31 January 2019

Rough-sleeping up 165% over the last decade, figures reveal

Rough-sleeping up 165% over the last decade, figures reveal image

High rents, a ‘faulty’ benefits system, and a lack of social housing has driven the dramatic rise in rough-sleeping since 2010, a homelessness charity has said.

The annual Autumn rough-sleeping statistics for 2018 from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government found that 4,677 people were rough sleeping in England

While this was a 2% decrease on 2017, the figures still represent a 165% increase since 2010?when the figures first started being recorded.

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said the rise in homelessness was the result of spiralling rents, a faulty benefits system and a lack of social housing.

‘We welcome many of the things which the government has been doing to seek to improve services for rough sleepers, and numbers do now seem to be stabilising which is a rare piece of good news, but without fundamental action to tackle the root causes of homelessness these measures will only achieve so much,’ she said.

‘Anyone who is forced to sleep in shop doorways or on the night bus is the end result of a broken housing system.’

Ms Neate warned that the 4,677 figure is ‘just the tip of the iceberg’.

‘There are many more people living precariously in emergency and temporary accommodation with their families.’

The Local Government Association said that it was difficult for councils to tackle rough-sleeping because homelessness services are facing a funding gap of more than £100m in 2019/20.

‘Proper resourcing of local government funding is essential if we are going to end homelessness,’ said the LGA’s housing spokesman Cllr Martin Tett.

The Chartered Institute of Housing deputy chief executive Gavin Smart described the rough-sleeping figures as ‘a stark reminder of the suffering at the very sharpest end of our national housing crisis.’

‘We believe that a chronic shortage of affordable homes combined with the welfare reforms introduced since 2012 has created a toxic mix,’ he continued.

‘To truly get to the root of the problem, the Government must invest in more genuinely affordable housing as well as reviewing the impact of welfare reforms like the benefit cap, universal credit and the housing benefit freeze for private renters.’

The LGA’s Cllr Martin Tett added: ‘Councils need to keep 100% of the receipts of any homes they sell to replace and reinvest in building more of the genuinely affordable homes they desperately need as well as the ability to adapt welfare reforms to prevent people from losing their home where possible.’

Responding to the same rough-sleeping figures, Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran called on the Government to scrap the Vagrancy Act, a nineteenth- century Act that criminalises begging and rough sleeping.

However, John Glenton, executive director of care and support for The Riverside Group, said the figures also show that investment in homelessness services can have a positive impact on the number of people without a home.

He said: 'The significance of adequate and sustained funding is clearly evidenced by these latest figures.

'They show that the areas where there has been increased funding for rough sleeping as part of the Rough Sleepers Initiative there has been a fall in the numbers of people sleeping on the streets by almost a quarter (23%) while areas receiving no extra money have seen a 41% increase in rough sleepers.

'Without action, the numbers of those sleeping rough will continue to run at unacceptable levels.'

Victoria King Lowe explores how local authorities can work with partners to attract additional funding and implement cost-effective solutions that can reduce rough sleeping and homelessness.

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