Official figures released today by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government show the number of rough sleepers counted on a single night in England in Autumn 2018 stands at 4677. Compared to the figure from a year ago, which stood at 4,751, this figure represents a 2% decrease, this is the first decrease in 9 years.

However this year’s numbers still show a 165% increase on 2010 and comes amid growing public concern at in the number of people sleeping rough.

This year, for the first time, Housing Justice carried its own count of people bedding down in night shelters on the same night. Piloting the count in London, Housing Justice counted 509 individuals in Church and Community run night shelters in the capital. London had a rough sleeper count of 1283, 13% higher than last year, meaning without faith and community run projects, the rough sleeper count would have been 40% higher.

Housing Justice runs a national network of Church and Community Night Shelters across England and Wales, with 125 predominantly faith led projects in the Housing Justice network.

To estimate the rough sleeper number, local authorities supply an estimate which is then nationally aggregated. For some local authorities, gathering this data consists of sending teams out to count those who are bedded down on the street. However, in many Local Authorities an estimate is made instead, where authorities consult with the police force, health services, and local faith and community groups to gain an estimate on the number of likely rough sleepers.

For a rough sleeper to be included in the count, there are strict criteria, with the government definition counting ‘people sleeping, or bedded down, in the open air (such as on the streets, or in doorways, parks or bus shelters); not people in buildings or other places not designed for habitation (such as barns, sheds, car parks, cars, derelict boats, stations, or ‘bashes’)’.

Housing Justice Chief Executive, Kathy Mohan said:

Today’s data underlines the severity of the homelessness crisis on our streets. Despite the first decrease in a decade, It is still simply unacceptable to see such numbers of people sleeping rough, enough to almost fill the Royal Albert Hall to capacity. Each person counted has their own story of personal tragedy and often failure of public policy.

Our own snapshot count compiled on the same night as the street count reveals how much worse this story might be without the extraordinary work of the church and community night shelter network. In London alone without these night shelter projects the count would have increased by almost half.

There is a huge amount of exceptional work on going to tackle rough sleeping and the overflowing reservoir of hidden homelessness and poverty which fuels it. Today’s statistics will serve as a stark reminder of the scale of the task. It must also reaffirm a commitment that each of us have a role to play in addressing this crisis and ultimately in ending homelessness.

Link to Rough Sleeping  data release here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/775089/Rough_Sleeping_Statistics_2018.pdf