Figures released today by the Government show that street homelessness remains an issue here in Hertfordshire.

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.

51 of these were in Hertfordshire, with every local authority in the county reporting people sleeping rough in their area. This does not include people in night-shelters or hostels.

John Chesters, CEO of Emmaus Hertfordshire, believes the stats released today do not paint the full picture of homelessness in Hertfordshire. 

“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. Experience gained through working with homeless people in Hertfordshire tells us that this figure is likely to be much higher.

“This survey only takes into account those people who were seen sleeping rough on just one evening in November. But we know that many homeless people are hidden from view, choosing to find somewhere out of sight to bed down due to fears for their safety. Others choose not to sleep at night as this is when they feel most at risk so may have been missed in this count.

“Aside from the flaws in the method itself, it fails to address homelessness as a wider issue. We agree that the Everyone In policy took many rough sleepers off the streets. But placing people into hostels, b&bs and other temporary accommodation is not the same as providing a permanent home and giving them 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.

Chris spent four months sleeping rough after losing his job and home at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. He now lives at Emmaus Hertfordshire, a charity which provides a home, a home, meaningful work opportunities, support and training for 39 formerly homeless people.

“I slept on friends’ settees for a while but I didn’t’ want to impose on friends for too long. And COVID was coming in which made it difficult.

“I slept rough in London for about four nights before I got talking to other homeless people who gave me lots of information on where I could get food and sleeping bags. Eventually I spent about four months sleeping rough in London. It was really hard.”