Government figures released on Tuesday 28 February by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities show the first increase in rough sleeping in England since 2017. The figures estimate that 3,069 people were sleeping rough on a single night in England in autumn 2022 – a 26% increase from 2021 and 74% increase from 2010, when the data collection first began.

In Cornwall in particular, the increase is much bigger compared to other areas, with with a rise of 53% since 2021.

The data was collected as part of the government’s Rough Sleeping Snapshot in England for 2022. These statistics, released in February each year, reveal a snapshot of the number of people sleeping rough during a single autumn night in local authorities across England.

Today’s figures are worrying and show that this is a problem that shouldn’t be ignored. We strongly believe that these figures are also just the tip of the iceberg. Homelessness is all around us and so much of it isn’t visible. With the cost-of-living crisis deepening, we know that so many people are living in insecure or unsuitable accommodation, are having to sofa surf or are doing whatever they can to stay warm and dry over the winter months.

Today, the Government also released new official data on statutory homelessness in England covering July to September 2022, which showed that 99,270 households were staying in temporary accommodation at the end of September 2022, with this including over 125,000 children.

What has contributed to the increase?

The increase in the number of people sleeping rough reflects the end of the “Everyone In” scheme, which helped over 37,000 people during the pandemic. Also, the end of the evictions ban placed 400,000 households at high risk of being evicted, according to research by The Joseph Rowntree Foundation. This combined with soaring inflation and the cost of living crisis has meant that prices for things like food and housing are getting higher, making it harder for people on low incomes.

A survey by Crisis found that almost a million households expected to be evicted in winter 2022. Even if people want to rent a home, it’s often too expensive, and waiting lists for social housing are long. It’s hard for people to get help for homelessness, so some people have no choice but to sleep on someone’s sofa or outside.

Time to act

After the success of the Everyone In scheme, it’s important to use a joined-up approach across different areas to stop rough sleeping from happening in the first place, and to help people who are already homeless.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Ending Homelessness recently launched an inquiry into the Government’s progress towards its manifesto commitment to ‘end the blight of rough sleeping by the end of the next Parliament’ in England by 2024. Without extra help, hundreds of thousands more people might also lose their homes and go through the same trauma. The Government needs to act fast to stop this from happening. We need decisive action to prevent a new wave of people forced to sleep rough, and to support the thousands of people currently forced to live without a home.

What are we doing at Emmaus Cornwall?

We are currently fundraising to open the first Emmaus community in Cornwall which will provide accommodation for as long as someone needs it, along with meaningful work, training and individual support. Our aim is to provide more than just a roof over someone’s head; we will provide a place that people can call home. Everyone in our community will contribute, learn new skills by working in our social enterprises, have the companionship of others, and receive tailored support to rebuild their lives following homelessness. To help us achieve this aim, we have recently opened our first social enterprise – Emmaus Cornwall Tree Nursery – which will generate some of the income we need to open our residential site. If you would like to help us achieve our aim, you can donate here.