Councils report increases in street homelessness of up to 164 per cent
Rough sleeping figures rocket across England
Significant numbers of councils saw their rough sleeping figures rise by more than 100 per cent last year.
The vast majority of English councils contacted as part of a snap survey by Inside Housing reported huge increases in the number of rough sleepers they counted last year - an ominous indicator ahead of the government’s official figures that are to be published imminently.
Leicester found 50 street homeless people as part of its count - a 163 per cent increase on the 19 rough sleepers it counted in 2010. Hull saw a 114 per cent jump, from seven in 2010 to 15 in 2011 and Worcester saw a 142 per cent rise - from seven to 17. Leeds found 11 rough sleepers, compared with six in 2010, and Brighton will report a 164 per cent increase - from 14 to 37.
In total, the 22 councils for which Inside Housing obtained figures, saw the number of rough sleepers rise by 40 per cent between 2010 and 2011 - from 338 to 472.
A spokesperson for Kent-based homelessness charity Porchlight said: ‘The bottom line is vulnerable people are suffering.’
The reasons for the rise were largely ‘the financial situation of the country and the cuts to welfare benefits that are beginning to really bite’, he added.
Local authorities in Kent will report a collective rise in the number of rough sleepers of 392 per cent - from 25 in 2010 to 123 in 2011, but they have changed the methodology of their annual counts.
A spokesperson for Leicester Council said it had ‘seen an increase in the number of EU nationals, who aren’t always eligible for the same support in terms of social housing or benefits’.
A spokesperson for Brighton & Hove Council said that, while it was reporting a 164 per cent rise to government, the actual number of rough sleepers on its streets was likely to be significantly higher.
‘The official count only covers selected areas of the city that are known hotspots for rough sleeping,’ he said. It estimates a more realistic figure would be 72 rough sleepers.
Just three councils surveyed reported a drop in street sleeping.
Janet Haddington, head of rough sleeping commissioning and strategy at Westminster, which found 106 rough sleepers in 2011, compared to 128 in 2010, said the drop was the result of years of hard work - particularly with entrenched rough sleepers.
The Communities and Local Government department declined to comment.