Sharp rise in numbers of rough sleepers in England

25 Jan 18

Rough sleeping increased sharply in England last year, leading to calls from councils and the Chartered Institute of Housing to change government policies on welfare and home building.

Figures from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, showed there were 4,751 people sleeping rough in autumn 2017.

This was an increase of 617 on the position a year earlier, equivalent to 15%, of which 173 additional rough sleepers were in London and 444 elsewhere.

London accounted for 24% of the total of rough sleepers, up a percentage point from the previous year.

There were 3,614 rough sleepers outside the capital, an increase of 14% over the year, and almost half this increase was accounted for by only eight local authority areas: Brighton & Hove, Medway, Southend-on-Sea, Oxford, Tameside, Worthing, Salford and Eastbourne.

Martin Tett, Local Government Association housing spokesman, said: “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."

CIH chief executive Terrie Alafat called the rise in rough sleeping “staggering” and said it provided “a stark demonstration of our national housing crisis”.

Alafat said that to meet their stated ambition of ending rough sleeping by 2027, ministers should review welfare policies “which are hindering efforts to tackle homelessness” and ensure councils have the money needed to discharge duties under the Homelessness Reduction Act, which comes into force in April.

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 £1bn of funding, supporting rough sleepers with the most complex needs.”

The department also pointed out a cross-government taskforce will be set up to help drive through its new homelessness strategy.

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