Homeless Britain: Numbers sleeping rough rocket by almost a third in one year

© Paul Hackett
New UK government figures reveal a dramatic increase in the number of people sleeping rough in Britain, with the figure rising by almost a third in one year and doubling over five.

The “snapshot” figures published by the Department for Communities and Local Government found that 3,569 people were sleeping on the streets on a typical night in the autumn of 2015, compared to 2,744 the year before, marking an increase of 30 percent – the greatest single hike in the last 5 years.

The 2015 figure was double that of 2010, when 1,768 people were found sleeping rough on a typical autumn night.

Jon Sparkes, CEO at the homelessness charity Crisis, said the figures are a “stark and sobering wake-up call.” The charity is calling on the government to extend support currently offered to first-time home buyers to homeless people who are looking to rent but can’t afford to do so.

The ten local districts with the highest number of people sleeping rough were Westminster, Bristol, Brighton and Hove, Manchester, Cornwall, Brent, Luton, Bedford, Croydon, and the City of London.

London has experienced a 27 percent increase in street sleepers since 2014, while in the rest of the country the difference grew by 31 per cent. In London, 43 percent of people sleeping rough are from the UK, 36 percent are from central and eastern Europe, and 18 percent of the total are from Romania.

READ MORE:‘Desperate situation’: Majority of landlords refuse to let properties to homeless, survey reveals 

Labour housing spokesman John Healey said the figures were a reminder of the Conservative ministers’ failure to deal with the UK’s housing crisis.

In response to the figures, homelessness minister Marcus Jones said that the government has pledged to increase funding to tackle homelessness to £139 million over the next four years.

“We have protected homelessness prevention funding and expect local authorities to provide quality advice and assistance to all those that approach them for help,” he said in a statement.

“Many rough sleepers have complex needs that include mental health difficulties or addiction, and we are developing a £5 million social impact bond that will help entrenched rough sleepers move off the streets.”

A report published this month by the homeless charity St Mungo’s found that the number of people recorded sleeping rough in London with an identified mental health problem has more than tripled over the last five years – surging from 711 in 2009-2010 to 2,342 in 2014-2015.

The Stop the Scandal report found that many mental health teams specializing in homelessness were downsized or closed as a result of funding cuts – by an average of 45% – between 2009-2010 and 2014-2015.

The charity is gathering signatures and writing to David Cameron to urge him to “stop the scandal” by launching a new national strategy offering rough sleepers specialist supported housing, mental health assessments, and professional support.