165 per cent increase in rough sleeping in last decade

New government figures show that the total number of people counted or estimated to be sleeping rough on a single night in England has risen 165 per cent since 2010.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government statistics found that 4,677 people were rough sleeping in England, which is actually a two per cent decrease on 2017. The Local Government Association, which represents local authorities in England, said that it was difficult for councils to tackle rough-sleeping as a result of homelessness services enduring a funding gap of more than £100 million.

The estimated number of rough sleepers increased by 13 per cent in London, 60 per cent in Birmingham, and 31 per cent in Manchester. The place with the largest number of rough sleepers was Westminster, where 306 people were on the streets on the night of the survey, up by 41 per cent.

Homelessness charity Shelter attributed the rise in homelessness to spiralling rent costs, a faulty benefits system and a lack of social housing.

Gavin Smart, deputy chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing, said: “It is frankly unacceptable that thousands of people are being forced to sleep on our streets – and the fact that this number has soared by 165 per cent since 2010 should shame us all. These statistics are a stark reminder of the suffering at the very sharpest end of our national housing crisis. And we must remember that they are partly based on estimates, so the true figure could be even higher.

"We must take action now. The government’s rough sleeping strategy rightly recognises this and aims to halve rough sleeping by 2022 and end it by 2027 – this is achievable, but only with the right level of investment and all of us pulling out all the stops to end homelessness. We believe that a chronic shortage of affordable homes combined with the welfare reforms introduced since 2012 has created a toxic mix. 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."

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: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. Anyone who is forced to sleep in shop doorways or on the night bus is the end result of a broken housing system.”

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