Figures released today by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that street homelessness remains an issue here in Essex.
Despite the recent “Everyone In” policy during the first COVID-19, the Rough Sleeping Snapshot figures show that 2,688 people were estimated to be sleeping rough on a single night in autumn 2020 in England.
40 of these were in Essex, with every local authority in the county reporting people sleeping rough in their area. This does not include people in night-shelters or hostels.
Denise King, CEO of Emmaus Colchester, believes the stats released today do not paint the full picture of people sleeping rough in the region.
“One person sleeping on our streets is one too many, so we are saddened to see that 2,688 people were found to be rough sleeping. Our concern is that the real figures of people rough sleeping is likely to be much higher.
“This survey only takes into account those people who were seen sleeping rough on just one evening. But we know that there are many hidden homeless that aren’t included in the count. Those that choose to find somewhere out of sight to bed down due to fears for their safety, others that choose not to sleep at night as this is when they feel most at risk, and those that are sofa surfing with no permanent place to call home.
“One area it fails to address is the wider issue of homelessness. While the Everyone In policy took many rough sleepers off the streets, placing people into hostels, b&bs and other temporary accommodation, it is not the same as providing a permanent home. Providing people with the support they need to rebuild their lives after homelessness.”
These concerns were echoed in research released in January 2021 when officials working on the Everyone In scheme used the Rough Sleeper snapshot from 2019 to estimate the support needed. This research found that 4,266 people were sleeping rough around the UK, but between the end of March when the scheme was launched and November 2020, auditors said that in fact 33,139 people participated in the scheme.
Fears of rise in homelessness post COVID-19 support
Denise King is concerned the number of people rough sleeping will rise as a result of the economic toll of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many people whose jobs have been affected are currently protected by the furlough scheme, and evictions currently banned, but with these schemes set to end later this year, homelessness is predicted to rise as a result.
“Emmaus Colchester is here to provide a home, support and purpose for as long as someone needs it. We are here to support those who need us now, and are ready to help those who will be affected by the economic impact of COVID-19 once current support is removed.”