Government figures released today (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.

The annual count was compiled from data obtained in autumn 2022. The figures were collected by local authorities who can either conduct a count or submit an estimate of the number of people who were sleeping rough on a single night. Therefore, the true number of people who were experiencing street homelessness in autumn 2022 is likely to be substantially higher.

The rough sleeping snapshot is also just the tip of the iceberg when assessing the number of people experiencing homelessness. The definition of rough sleeping followed by DLHC does not include people in hostels or shelters, those sofa surfing or in temporary accommodation, or people in campsites or other sites used for recreational purposes. 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.

The increase in rough sleeping figures reflects the end of the Everyone In scheme, which provided support for more than 37,000 people sleeping rough during the pandemic, coupled with the end of the evictions ban which placed an estimated 400,000 households at high risk of eviction according to research commissioned by The Joseph Rowntree Foundation. Furthermore, the end to government support initiatives combined with soaring inflation and the ongoing cost of living crisis saw nearly one million low income households state that they were expecting to face eviction in winter 2022 according to a survey by Crisis. The survey also found that the private rented sector is often out of reach and long social housing waiting lists and other issues accessing homelessness support meant that many people faced a lack of options, leaving some people forced to sofa surf or sleep rough.

The Government has set targets to end rough sleeping in England by 2024 and the Everyone In scheme was a watershed moment in efforts to tackle rough sleeping and homelessness. However, with the latest figures showing a 26% increase in rough sleeping from 2021 and a significant 74% increase from 2010, we are concerned that without urgent and immediate action this Government will not meet its commitment to end rough sleeping by 2024.

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. The inquiry made five recommendations to the Government:

  1. Establish a new inter-ministerial working group or cabinet committee to establish a clear vision and plan.
  2. Urgently deliver improved access to genuinely affordable housing to relieve the acute lack of accommodation options for people facing or experiencing homelessness.
  3. Strengthen preventative welfare polices to help more people keep their homes as the cost-of-living crisis worsens.
  4. Urgently review existing criteria of priority need and local connection in homelessness legislation in England.
  5. Ensure that the right support is available to sustain an end to someone’s homelessness, and for people with multiple, entrenched needs, this is Housing First.

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 is terrible to see an increase in the number of people forced to sleep rough and without additional support, hundreds of thousands more people could be faced with the trauma of losing their homes. We need decisive action from the Government as set out in the APPG for Ending Homelessness inquiry 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.