News: The Connection’s response to the annual street count figures

The number of people estimated to be sleeping rough on a single night in autumn has fallen for the fourth year in a row from its peak in 2017 but remains higher than in 2010 when the snapshot approach was first introduced.

This is according to the annual counts and estimates data for rough sleeping in England which was published today (24/02/2022) by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.

This count was conducted in November 2021 and gives a snapshot of the numbers of people likely sleeping rough each night during a given period of the year and is used to track national and local trends. It found the following:

• There were 2,440 people estimated to be sleeping rough on a single night in autumn 2021 in England – a 9 % decrease from 2020 and an increase of 670 or 38 % increase since 2010.
• For the third year in a row there has been a decrease in the number of people estimated to be sleeping rough on a single night in autumn in London.
• Westminster had the highest number of people sleeping rough on a single night in autumn 21 – 187 people were estimated to be sleeping rough. Westminster has consistently been the local authority with the highest number of people sleeping rough since the snapshot approach was introduced in 2010.
• However Westminster is also the borough with the largest decrease – 23% – in the number of people sleeping rough on a single night in autumn 2020 (242).
• The local authority suggests that the reduction was a result of both ‘Everyone In’, the Protect programme and RSI funding. This has helped increase emergency accommodation availability but also expand outreach services that support people into accommodation.
• In London, 84% of people sleeping rough on a single night were male and 14% female (3% not known). 36% of people (230) sleeping rough were from the UK, and 41% EU nationals; 50 people (8 %) were from outside the EU / UK; nationality of 100 people (16 %) wasn’t known

The Connection’s response to the figures
The overall drop in numbers of people sleeping rough across the country and in Westminster particularly is very positive. Recently published CHAIN figures also show a decrease (11% ) on the number of people recorded as sleeping rough in London (2,949) between October and December 2021, compared to the same period in 2020. There was also a drop in levels of people sleeping rough for the first time in this quarter.

This is likely to be partly due to investment in measures to protect people during the winter months, and the nationwide “Everyone In” initiative during the first lockdown. This saw people who were sleeping rough (including those usually excluded by their immigration status) offered emergency accommodation and wraparound care in hotels – some of which were run by The Connection. With our partners across Westminster, we worked hard to bring people inside off the streets and support many individuals to achieve their goals of moving in to longer term housing. This achievement can’t be underestimated.

While today’s announcement shows a welcome decline in rough sleeping, the street count is likely to underestimate levels of homelessness amongst women, who are in need of specialist support. And the number of people bedding down night after night, ‘living long-term’ on London’s streets has, according to CHAIN, increased by 19% in a year. It also may not reflect the needs of people the streets during the daytime – who are either not sleeping rough at night or have not yet been picked up by an existing service. Our Street Engagement Team works with many individuals across the West End, who often are not accessing support services, are entrenched in a street lifestyle and face multiple disadvantages.

While the number of people on the streets is lower than pre-COVID, increases in the cost of living combined with the end of measures such as furlough, Universal Credit uplift and the moratorium on evictions could see many people forced onto the streets or into precarious accommodation. Heriot Watt University’s projections in the annual Crisis Homelessness Monitor show that under the status quo, levels of ‘core’ homelessness will have gone up by one third between 2019 and 2024. Additional funding from the government has recently enabled us and other agencies to place rough sleepers in hotel accommodation over the winter months, to keep them safe. The Connection and partner agencies are working hard to support people into alternative accommodation, however when the funding ends, the lack of adequate housing supply makes it likely that some people will return to the street. We want this to change.

Pam Orchard, CEO, said: “In the UK, rough sleeping remains at its highest in Westminster and that’s why The Connection has been working here for over 100 years. No one should be forced to sleep rough in our capital city and any one person living on the streets is one too many. There were huge steps forward in how we as a country responded to the homelessness crisis during the pandemic – it’s vital that the level of investment and support is there to build on the progress made to ensure that people who are pushed to the edge have a fulfilling future and home of their own.”