Stephen Bell OBE, Chief Executive of Changing Lives, responds to the statistics released by the UK Government about the number of people sleeping rough in local authorities across England.
This week the Government released its 2018 rough sleeping count figures for England. Based on the count or estimate from each local authority, the figures show that 4,677 people slept rough on a single given night in Autumn 2018. This represents a 2% decrease from 2017: and a 165% increase since 2010.
Whilst any decrease in the number of people on our streets is welcome, the reality is that the official figures mask a complex picture. Firstly, we know that a single night spent on the streets is one too many. Secondly, that the number of people actually counted or estimated to be on the streets is only the tip of the homelessness iceberg. That figure amounts to a shocking 170,000 individuals and families in total. Finally, and critically for Changing Lives, the statistics mask significant differences at regional and local level.
Rough sleeping has risen in almost all England’s major cities in the last year, and across five of its nine regions. In the North East and across Yorkshire and Humber figures are up 29% and 19% respectively. But in the city of York, where we have been working in partnership with the City Council and the Salvation Army to support people with the most complex needs, levels have reduced by 69%.
In many of these areas Changing Lives is working closely with partners to respond to the crisis of homelessness when it happens, and prevent cycles of rough sleeping. But we are doing this in the context of severe cuts to funding. Recent work by Lloyds Bank Foundation found there had been a 46% reduction in spending on preventing homelessness, while spending on homelessness crisis support has increased by 58%.
Commenting on the figures Stephen Bell, Chief Executive of Changing Lives said:
“The fact that numbers are increasing in areas that have historically had the lowest levels of rough sleeping, shows that homelessness continues to be a national crisis. Nine years of austerity, searing cuts to funding hitting councils in the north hardest, and the dismantling of the welfare safety net has created a perfect storm for people experiencing complex needs.
The massive increase in rough sleeping since 2010, combined with the growing gap between London and the rest of the country over the same period, shows more needs to be done, now. We need to tackle the structural causes of homelessness – starting by recognising that everyone has a right to a home.”
You can view the official annual statistics here.