ROUGH sleeping is rising at ‘an appalling rate,’ said the homelessness charity Crisis yesterday, as it emerged that more than 4,000 people a night have been sleeping rough on England’s streets this year – a 16% increase on last year.
As freezing conditions continued to grip the country, figures issued yesterday by the Department for Communities and Local Government showed that more than half of local councils in England recorded a rise in the numbers rough sleeping compared with the year before.
Outside of London, the number of people on the streets rose by a massive 20%, whereas in the capital it was 3%. Crisis chief executive Jon Sparkes said yesterday: ‘Behind these statistics are thousands of desperate people, sleeping in doorways, bin shelters, stations and parks – anywhere they can find to stay safe and escape the elements.
‘Rough sleeping ruins lives, leaving people vulnerable to violence and abuse, and taking a dreadful toll on their mental and physical health. Our recent research has shown how rough sleepers are 17 times more likely to be victims of violence. ‘This is no way for anyone to live.’
Yesterday’s official figures showed that rough sleeping has more than doubled since 2010, when 1,768 people were recorded. And for the first time they included details of gender, age and nationality of those seen on the streets. Separate statistics showed that more than 114,000 households in England turned to councils for help in 2015-16 because they were losing their home.
Research by St Mungo’s, the homelessness charity, found that four in 10 rough sleepers had mental health problems, while 41% needed help with alcohol dependency and 31% needed help with drug abuse.
Sparkes added: ‘There is no time to waste. We need the government to take action on this issue, and we stand ready to work with officials to plan and deliver an ambitious new approach.’