I’ve called on the Government to commit that no-one will spend this winter on the streets, with rough sleeping having increased by 110% in Yorkshire and the Humber since 2010.
With many night shelters closed because of Covid restrictions, and fears there will be thousands fewer beds available across the country, I’ve been pressing Ministers to ensure that everyone has a safe, Covid-secure place to stay this winter.
Without the last resort of night shelters, the situation is especially desperate for homeless people this winter. Research by charity HomelessLink found one third of homeless organisations and local authorities expect to see a decrease in capacity this winter.
Other frontline charities have said that rough sleepers are facing their worst winter yet. Testimony from organisations offering emergency beds – usually in church halls, community centres and similar buildings – includes:
- In one case, less than one third of the night shelter beds on offer last year will be available this winter, meaning around 6,500 rough sleepers risk being turned away
- Charities are also struggling with less than half the usual number of volunteers this year, reducing the help they can offer rough sleepers
- Concerns that the government’s threats to deport some foreign nationals who are sleeping rough could make it harder to help people who need support, as they will be less likely to seek or accept assistance
The Government promised to end rough sleeping for good but, even before the pandemic, it had already doubled over the past 10 years of Conservative governments. In Yorkshire and the Humber, there were 115 people sleeping rough in 2010, but by 2019 the figure had risen to 242. Across England as a whole, the figure rose from 1,768 people to 4,266 – a 141% increase.
While many rough sleepers were given emergency accommodation during the spring lockdown, recent data suggests that more people are again sleeping on the streets. The number of new rough sleepers between April and June in London was up almost 80% on the previous year.
No-one in Britain wants thousands of people to be sleeping out on street in the cold. The government must ensure that everyone has a safe and warm place to stay because one person sleeping rough is one too many.