Rough sleeping increasing nationally and locally

26 Feb 2016
by Neil Skinner

Annual figures released by the Government this week reveal a 30% year on year increase in rough sleeping. 

Every local authority in England was obliged to carry out single night counts and estimates between October 1 and November 30 2015. 

Nottingham, which is covered by Framework's professional outreach team, saw a rise of nearly 56% - with 14 people found sleeping rough on the night of the count, which was conducted by Framework. 

This is the first increase since 2013 and comes after several years of damaging cuts to services. Similar rises were reported in other so-called Core Cities like Liverpool (+88%), Bristol (+137%) and Birmingham (+56%). 

Framework has not been funded to provide outreach services in the districts and boroughs of the county since 2013 and believes more people are being drawn to Nottingham to find help. Specialist projects to support homeless offenders and those affected by substance misuse have also closed, adding further to the pressure. The charity also fears that the impending closure of its specialist prevention services in the districts and boroughs of Nottinghamshire will drive more people onto the street. 

Operations Director Michael Leng said: “The professional and highly effective street outreach team we operate in Nottingham City has been keeping a lid on rough sleeping for the last few years. They are moving more people off the streets than ever before – helping them to find the accommodation and support they need. 

“At the same time they are dealing with more and more complicated cases – of people affected not only by street homelessness, but by mental ill health, substance addiction and a history of offending. In many cases it takes a lot more than simply putting a roof over their heads to get them back on their feet; it takes a great deal of time and support to deal with the root causes of their homelessness before we can help them to live independently again. 

“We have seen pressure on this service build and build in recent years and we expect to see more people sleeping rough in future. I know that, were it not for the work of the Street Outreach Team, these numbers would be a lot higher.” 

The effectiveness of Street Outreach work 

Framework’s Street Outreach Team works with a range of partners like the police, NHS and City council to properly assess how many people are on the streets and provide the expert help needed by people risking their lives in this way.

  • Between November 2014 and November 2015 (the same period of the DCLG report) Framework found 368 different individuals rough sleeping in Nottingham City – some of them on multiple occasions.
  • Of these we secured 356 successful outcomes, helping people into hostels, private rented accommodation, social housing as well as reconnection and accommodation in other areas/countries. 

Figures were also submitted in other areas of the county, although Framework was not involved in collating these. 

  • Newark and Sherwood reported a 100% increase in rough sleeping, with a total of 10 people reported as sleeping rough.
  • Mansfield reported no change (8 people) and Bassetlaw reported an increase 28%, with 23 people found. 

Nottinghamshire Homeless Watch Survey 

A more local and detailed study was released earlier in the month, detailing research over a two week window from September 21 2015. This showed: 

  • A county-wide increase in people reporting as rough sleeping of 46%
  • An increase in long term rough sleeping, with more than 28% spending between one and six months sleeping rough. 21% slept rough for more than six months – an increase of 200%
  • 40% of the rough sleepers surveyed reported mental ill-health, compared with 26% of the homeless population.
  • 83 per cent of rough sleepers were male
  • 50 per cent slept in the open air and 40 per cent slept buildings not fit for habitation. 1% slept in squats. Remaining data not provided.
  • 20% of rough sleepers had left prison / custody

More locally, it suggested a rise of 40% in Mansfield District, where 28 people were sleeping rough.

Over all there seems a very clear trend: that rough sleeping is on the increase. This is a trend reflected nationally and has been attributed to reduction in housing benefit, welfare reforms, cuts to services and a chronic shortage of affordable housing.

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