The number of people rough sleeping has gone up by 31 per cent in the past two years, according to government statistics released today.
Communities and Local Government department figures show the number of rough sleepers in a single-night snapshot in autumn 2012 was 2,309 up from 1,768 in autumn 2010. This year’s figure was a rise of 6 per cent from autumn 2011’s count of 2,181.
Matt Harrison, director at umbrella group Homeless Link, said: ‘The harsh economic climate continues to add to rough sleeping numbers. Living on the streets is dangerous, harmful to your health and the longer you spend out the more your problems will multiply.’
He urged councils not to cut homelessness services. ‘It is more important than ever that we continue to invest in a safety net that gets help to rough sleepers quickly and supports them to get back on their feet,’ he said.
Leslie Morphy, chief executive of charity Crisis, said: ‘We have been warning for some time now that the economic downturn combined with cuts – particularly to housing benefit – would drive rough sleeping higher. These figures confirm our fears and with a raft of new cuts coming in April, we think this is just the beginning.’
Jack Dromey MP, Labour’s shadow housing minister, said: ‘What we are seeing now are the consequences of this government’s failure, homeless people huddled in shop doorways and sleeping on freezing winter streets.’
The 2012 figure comes from 43 local authorities conducting a count and 283 providing an estimate. In 2011, 53 councils did counts and 273 provided estimates and in 2010 these figures were 42 and 284 respectively.
The government overhauled rough sleeping counts in 2010. All local authorities should now provide a figure, whereas previously only ‘hot spot’ areas had to take part.
Local authorities now have the choice of whether to carry out an actual count or provide an estimate.