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Rise in number sleeping on streets

The number of people sleeping rough in England continues to rise and is now up by more than a third since 2010 in what critics called a "clear warning sign" of the impact of benefit cuts.

Counts and estimates compiled by local councils in the autumn put the number on the streets at 2,414, 105 more than the previous year and a 37% increase over three years.

There was a small drop in the number of street sleepers in London - which still accounts for more than a fifth of all cases - but the total was swelled by a 7% rise across the rest of the country.

Labour said the rise was a "direct consequence" of Government policies and charities pointed to benefit cuts and demanded more help to prevent people becoming destitute .

Shadow housing minister Emma Reynolds said: "It is appalling that on David Cameron's watch the number of people sleeping rough has soared by more than a third.

"The Prime Minister once said homelessness and rough sleeping were a disgrace. But warm words are cold comfort to those sleeping rough if you fail to act.

"The Government was warned its policies risked increasing homelessness and rough sleeping but these warnings fell on deaf ears.

"What we are seeing now are the direct consequences of David Cameron's failure."

Rick Henderson, chief executive of umbrella body Homeless Link, urged ministers to take notice of the "clear warning sign" of the consequences of reducing housing-related support.

He said the problem was partly being "contained" by many town halls protecting homelessness services from severe local government funding cuts - and that rough sleepers were getting help more quickly.

But the numbers in Derby had nearly doubled after it "slashed" funding, he said.

"There are many issues, such as welfare reform, that could lead to further rises in rough sleeping," Mr Henderson cautioned.

"This should serve as a clear warning sign that cutting funding for housing-related support now will have a serious impact in the future."

Charles Fraser, chief executive of the St Mungo's charity, said: "It is deeply depressing that we are seeing yet another rise in rough sleeping.

"A tragic amount of people have been let down before having to face the misery of sleeping on our streets.

"Our clients tell us they don't know how to find help, or it's not available when they ask. That is the time to stop homelessness, before it starts."

Most rough sleepers in London (53%) were found to be from overseas - the same proportion as last year - with m ore than one in four (28%) of all those on the streets coming from central and eastern European countries which joined the European Union over the past decade.

They included a growing number of Romanians - up more than 50% on last year from 329 to 497 - and a smaller increase in Bulgarians from 53 to 60.

A 12-month re-entry ban for EU nationals who have been removed for begging or sleeping rough is among restrictions brought in by the Government last month in a bid to curb arrivals.

Africans and Asians made up 6% each of the total (370 and 360) with 94 from the Americas (2%) and just three from Australasia.

The nationality of 178 was not listed.

The figures came from physical counts by 48 local authorities and estimates provided by another 278 - validated by Homeless Link and other organisations - based on a single night in October or November.

The largest single total outside of London was the 77 reported in Cornwall.

Derby estimated that it had 47 rough sleepers, Bristol 41, Colchester 35, Slough 30, Coventry 26 and Manchester, which carried out a physical count, reported 24.

Housing Minister Kris Hopkins said: "For years, the national figure on the numbers of rough sleepers failed to reflect the true situation on our streets.

"We've changed that so every council now has to report the scale of the problem in their area.

"We've also introduced the No Second Night Out initiative, which actively seeks to find and help hidden rough sleepers and means that 70% of rough sleepers spend no more than one night on the streets.

"And with the majority of rough sleepers in London being foreign nationals, we've ensured European nationals sleeping on our streets are removed, and we've toughened the immigration rules."

Leslie Morphy, chief executive of Crisis, said: "Behind these statistics are more and more real lives being devastated by the traumatic experience of homelessness.

"The Government must take real steps to address the chronic lack of affordable housing and urgently consider the impact its cuts are having, particularly to housing benefit and local homelessness services."

She welcomed the extension of government funding for a scheme which h elps single homeless people into private rented homes.

Another £2 million is being provided to allow the Crisis Private Rented Sector Access Development Programme to continue for another two years.

It has supported almost 8,000 vulnerable people since 2010 through 153 projects in 144 council areas

"This additional funding will help ensure that good local schemes across the country can continue their vital work helping single homeless people find and sustain accommodation. Challenging conditions in the private rented sector and increasing demand make this work difficult but all the more important."


From Belfast Telegraph