The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has released a new report on homelessness, finding that the number of people sleeping rough fell by around one-third between 2019-2020.
Rough sleeping fell by over 36% during the period, “possibly related to policy responses” brought in due to the pandemic, the report said.
However, rough sleeping levels are still higher than they were in 2010, when the Conservatives came into power.
The report also found that the number of people sleeping rough on any given night in the UK peaked in 2017.
‘Figures likely to rise again’
Commenting on the latest figures, Rick Henderson, CEO of Homeless Link, said: “These statistics show that rough sleeping is not inevitable.
“The huge success of the ‘Everyone In’ programme demonstrated how effective universal, unconditional support is in tackling homelessness, driving innovation during an unprecedented time.
“However, despite the huge efforts of the homelessness sector in the past 15 months, rough sleeping levels are still higher than they were in 2010.
“There are also potentially many more people experiencing hidden homelessness who aren’t visible in these statistics.
“To build on the success of the pandemic, we must push forward and move beyond the emergency action taken, focusing on tackling the root causes of homelessness and building long-term solutions like Housing First, where people experiencing homelessness are given their own home and intensive support to maintain it.”
Henderson added: “This report also comes at a time when many homeless charities and local authorities are concerned about the potential coming ‘cliff edge’ as the Everyone In scheme ends.
“With COVID cases rising, it’s crucial the government acts to ensure people currently in hotels are supported into secure, stable accommodation rather than returning to the streets.
“At the same time, the recent ending of the private sector evictions ban will likely lead to a surge of people needing homeless support.
“Without a strategy to support all those affected into longer-term accommodation, rough sleeping figures are unfortunately likely to rise again, putting the government’s manifesto target of ending rough sleeping by 2024 in jeopardy.”
Speaking on behalf of the Local Government Association, Housing spokesperson Councillor David Renard said: “It is positive that rough sleeping has fallen. This is testament to the efforts of councils, working with government and partners, in getting people sleeping rough off the streets during the pandemic, and into safe and suitable accommodation.
“This has shown what can be achieved when central and local government work together towards a shared goal.
“Councils want to build on this success and work with government on a cross-departmental homelessness prevention strategy and meet its ambition of ending rough sleeping by the end of this Parliament.
“Recent pots of government funding for councils to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping have been helpful.
“As we look ahead to the Spending Review, councils will need long-term funding through a multi-year settlement to give them the certainty they need to plan homelessness prevention services which can help prevent people from losing their homes in the first place.”
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