London: charity finds increase in number of rough sleepers

 A survey of the incidence of street homeless in London, by homeless charity The Simon Community, found 226 people sleeping rough on the evening of 29th October. This is a five per cent increase in the number of rough sleepers since the last Simon Community headcount in April. The charity had expected its winter headcount to find fewer rough sleepers following the government's announcement in September that rough sleeping had been reduced by 70 percent. Martin Kelly, Chair of The Simon Community, said: "We acknowledge that the government has increased the resources available to local authorities to tackle homelessness, yet the statistics show that many vulnerable people continue to fall through the gaps in current service provision." The Simon Community's aim is to raise awareness of the reasons why rough sleepers exist, and is calling for a debate with the government and other homeless service providers to re-visit what needs be done to help people whose only option is sleeping rough. Martin Kelly said: "Anyone who thinks there is no need to sleep rough in this day and age is misguided: even at the most basic level of the problem there are not enough beds available in the hostels. We called 65 London hostels on the evening of the survey and out of a total of 3576 beds only 16 were available." He added that rough sleepers are often referred to as the most visible of homeless people, but there are no exact figures on how many rough sleepers there are in London because many of them do not wish to be found and avoid contact with any of the government or voluntary sector outreach workers. While many hostels meet the most basic needs of food and shelter; Kelly said there will always be a group of hardcore rough sleepers who avoid hostels because they have experienced theft, violence and drug-taking in some establishments and see sleeping on the streets as the preferable alternative. He concluded: "Homelessness is, first and foremost, about people; people who have become disconnected, not only from mainstream society, but from human relationships, and until the strategies to tackle homelessness are developed with this in mind there will continue to be hundreds of unreachable rough sleepers in society."

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