The annual rough sleeping snapshot for England, published by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, shows rough sleeping has decreased by 9% since 2020 and down 49% from the peak in 2017. However, the figures still present a 38% increase on 2010, when the data collection first began.
The count, compiled from data collected in autumn 2021, estimates 2,440 people were sleeping rough on a single night. The figures were collected by local authorities who can either conduct a count or submit an estimate of the number of people who are sleeping rough on a single night, therefore the true number of people who are experiencing street homelessness is likely to be substantially higher.
While the decrease in the figures in the past two years reflects the success of the Everyone In scheme in providing support for people sleeping rough through the COVID pandemic, the numbers are still too high. The government has set targets to end rough sleeping by 2024 and although progress towards this target has been accelerated by the pandemic, the target will not be reached at the current rate of decrease. While any decrease is welcomed, today’s data shows that decisive strategy and clear action is needed from the government to prevent thousands of people having no alternative but to sleep rough.
The rough sleeping snapshot is also just the tip of the iceberg when assessing the number of people experiencing homelessness. These figures do not include people in a hostel, night shelter, temporary accommodation, or sofa surfing on the night of the count. According to research by Crisis published earlier this week in its Homelessness Monitor, 282,000 households were judged by local authorities to be homeless or threatened with homelessness in 2020/21.
In addition to the number of people still sleeping rough and threatened with homelessness, we are concerned that the full impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on people forced into homelessness is still yet to be seen. The economic impact of the pandemic, coupled with the end of many government support initiatives will likely have devastating consequences for households across the country. The end of the evictions ban and furlough scheme, plus the removal of the £20 Universal Credit uplift during a nation cost-of-living crisis, all leave people hit hardest by the economic impact of pandemic at risk of losing their homes.
In its Homelessness Monitor 2022, Crisis found that nearly every council across England predicts the end of the evictions ban will see a rise in homelessness, while four-fifths of councils said the removal of the £20 uplift in universal credit will contribute to rising homelessness across the country, all of which will be compounded by the cost-of-living crisis. After the success of the Everyone In scheme, it’s crucial that a holistic cross-sector approach is adopted to end both the causes and impact of rough sleeping. It would be terrible to see an increase in the number of people forced to sleep rough in coming years because of lack of action at this crucial stage.
Without additional support, hundreds of thousands of people could be faced with the trauma of losing their homes. We need decisive action from government to prevent a new wave of people forced to sleep rough and to support the thousands of people still forced to live without a home.