Report shows massive rise in number of rough sleepers

Newly published Government statistics show that rough sleeping has risen in England by 23% in the last year. The Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) Statistical Release records 2,181 people as sleeping rough on any one night, up from a total of 1,768 in last year's count.

The largest number  of rough sleepers per head of population is in the South of England, especially the South West. This corresponds with the areas of the country where housing is most scarce and unaffordable.

All local authorities in England have submitted figures based either on street counts or estimates done in partnership with homelessness agencies such as outreach services. Street counts were carried out by 53 local authorities between October and November 2011 and estimates were done by 273 local authorities.

Philip Burke, a trustee with the Upper Room, a church homeless charity in Hammersmith, west London, commented: "If these are the official government figures, I'm afraid the real ones will be much worse. There are simply not enough beds to accommodate people. The hostels are filling to bursting point."

Phillip added: "The sheer scale is becoming overwhelming. This is because there is an acute shortage of affordable housing.  Mrs Thatcher introduced the right to buy, which helped some people get on the first rung of the housing ladder, but it also seriously depleted council housing stock, which has never been replaced.

" But in fact this country hasn't seen adequate house building programmes since the late 1920s. Successive governments are to blame for this."

Housing Justice director Alison Gelder said: "This increase is sadly part of a familiar picture of chronic and growing housing need in society. Churches in the Housing Justice network report that more and more people are asking for help with housing, including families at risk of losing their homes because of the new limits on Local Housing Allowance.

"Churches providing practical assistance to homeless and precariously housed people are struggling to meet the rising demand. New church shelter schemes that opened up this winter, such as those in Milton Keynes and Birmingham, have quickly filled to capacity. As predicted, cuts to local authority funded services and independent advice agencies are starting to bite. And on top of all this the rising cost of food and other essentials is forcing many families into debt just to survive.

"The Coalition Government should think again about its policies which are impacting most directly on the poorest in society. They could start by scrapping the benefit caps in the Welfare Reform Bill."

To read the report see:

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