New statistics showing that rough sleeping has soared by 169% in England since 2010 have been described as shameful and “a national crisis” by homelessness charities.
Figures released by the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government show 4,677 people slept on the streets in England during Autumn 2018.
While this represents a 2% drop on the same period the previous year, rough sleeping numbers have skyrocketed since 2010 – especially in London.
Separate figures published today by the YMCA found that fewer than one in five homeless young people believe the public care about their situation.
Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: “The combination of spiralling rents, a faulty benefits system and lack of social housing means the number of people forced to sleep rough has risen dramatically since 2010.
“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.”
Howard Sinclair, Chief Executive of St Mungo’s, said: “While the shocking rise in rough sleeping that we have seen in recent years has stopped, a closer look at the figures makes it clear that rough sleeping remains a national crisis.
“With more and more people dying on our streets or while homeless, it is also a matter of life and death.
“Rough sleeping is preventable, and these tragic deaths can be stopped. But to do that, we need further urgent action, not only to provide emergency support for those sleeping rough now, but also to reverse the years of cuts that have devastated the support services that help people to move on from rough sleeping, or to avoid homelessness in the first place.
“It is worrying that rough sleeping in London is still on the rise. The increase in the number of people sleeping rough from non-UK EU nationals in the capital demonstrates the need for immediate and tailored solutions for this particularly vulnerable group who often face restricted access to welfare and other vital support services.”
He continued: “The Government’s Rough Sleeping Strategy is a welcome first step towards helping people in need on our streets.
“But with the number of people sleeping rough falling just 2% last year, these figures clearly show that a much greater effort is needed if the Government is serious about meeting its commitment to halve rough sleeping by 2022, and end it by 2027.
“Resources need to be focussed not just on helping people move off the streets, but also on the long term housing and support they need to build a life away from rough sleeping.
“Otherwise we will continue to see vulnerable people returning to our streets.”
Chief executive of Crisis, Jon Sparkes said: “It’s a damning reflection of our society that night after night, so many people are forced to sleep rough on our streets, with numbers soaring in the capital.”
Charities have also warned that the latest government figures may just be the tip of the iceberg, with the true number of people sleeping rough likely to be far higher than official statistics suggest.
Denise Hatton, YMCA England & Wales, Chief Executive said: “Although there was a slight fall in people sleeping rough in England last year, the number has still significantly increased since 2010, with a worrying amount of young people on the streets.
“These figures are only a single night’s snapshot, with the reality being much higher and do not take into consideration the number of hidden homeless.
“We have welcomed the Government’s pledge to help improve services to rough sleepers but without action tackling issues such as high rents, lack of social housing and immediate intervention when people become homeless, the situation is only going to get worse.
“It is unimaginable that any young person is forced to sleep out and our YMCAs continue to be approached by young people who are on the streets and have nowhere else to turn.”