The annual rough sleeping snapshot for England, published by the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government, shows rough sleeping has decreased by 37% since 2019. However, this still presents a 52% increase on 2010 when the data collection first launched. The figures are also based on a count or 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.
This year’s decrease can be attributed to the success of the Everyone In scheme which provided emergency accommodation for rough sleepers during the first lockdown, offering a chance for people to engage with vital services and get their lives back on track.
While these numbers reflect the efforts of local authorities and homelessness organisations in the past year, we are concerned that the full impact of the COVID-19 crisis on people at risk of homelessness is yet to be seen. The count reports 2,688 people were estimated to be sleeping rough on a single night in autumn 2020, and while any decrease is welcomed, this is still too high. No one should be without a home, especially during a pandemic.
Today’s figures demonstrate that a holistic multi-agency approach to provision for rough sleepers can have a direct impact on the number of people forced to sleep on the streets. Now we need to build on the successes of the past year and continue to work together to ensure no one has to sleep rough in 2021.
It is unacceptable at any time that people are forced to sleep rough. However, during the COVID-19 crisis, it is even more urgent that everyone at risk of rough sleeping is provided with somewhere safe to stay. Today’s data shows that the current government initiatives are not enough to prevent thousands of people having no alternative but to sleep rough.
We need decisive action from government to prevent a new wave of rough sleeping as the furlough scheme ends and the ban on evictions is lifted. Hundreds of thousands of people are in rent arrears as a result of the pandemic and without additional support many more could be faced with the trauma of losing their homes.
Thank you for reading and best wishes,
Simon Grainge is Chief Executive of Emmaus UK. Emmaus supports more than 850 formerly homeless people across the UK, providing them with a home for as long as they need it, support, meaningful work and training. There are now 29 Emmaus communities across the UK, and five Emmaus groups currently working to open new communities.