The number of people sleeping rough on England’s streets has risen by more than 50 per cent in the last two years, with more than one in five of those sleeping rough identified as migrants.
According to figures gathered by local authorities and published by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), 4,134 people slept rough in England on a snapshot night in autumn 2016. This is up from 2,744 in autumn 2014.
London was the most heavily affected, with some 23 per cent of all rough sleepers in the country bedding down on London’s streets, but regional cities including Brighton and Hove, Luton, Manchester, Bristol, Bedford, and Birmingham were also affected.
Of those counted on the snapshot night in 2016, 714, or 17 per cent were EU migrants, and a further 194 (5 per cent) were non-EU migrants.
509 (12 per cent) were women, and 288 (7 per cent) were under the age of 25.
However, the total figures include those for whom demographic data was not known or collected. The Department admits that while there was very little missing data for age or gender, “most of the missing data” related to nationality, meaning that the true number of destitute migrants may be higher.
Separate figures recorded for London by the Combined Homelessness and Information Network (CHAIN) included in the same report showed that, in 2015-16, less than half of homeless people in London were British nationals. Meanwhile 19.5 per cent were Romanian, 8.7 per cent were Polish, and 12.2 per cent were from other European Economic Area (EEC) countries. A further 5.5 per cent were from Africa and 4.9 per cent from Asia.
Charity bosses have called on the government to do more to tackle the issue, while local authorities have appealed for more funds to address the problem.
Jon Sparkes, of the charity Crisis, told the Times: “We need the government to take action on this. Rough sleeping ruins lives — leaving people vulnerable to violence and abuse and taking a dreadful toll on their mental and physical health.
“Behind these statistics are thousands of desperate people sleeping in doorways, bin shelters, stations and parks — anywhere they can find to stay safe and escape the elements.”
Howard Sinclair, chief executive of the charity St Mungo’s, said: “Rough sleeping is not inevitable and we know that concerted action works.”
In Birmingham, where a young man died sleeping on the streets last month, charities have written to the government warning that a planned cut of £10 million to mental health and support services may result in further deaths.
“Birmingham city council is faced with an almost impossible task in trying to achieve a balanced budget in the face of massive reductions in funding from central government and sharply rising social need,” said Jean Templeton, of the St Basils project.