Rough sleeping rises yet again and is further testament to a failed housing policy writes Kevin Gulliver

The latest official figures from the rejigged Department of Housing, Communities and Local Government (DHCLG) reveal that rough sleeping in England has risen again – the seventh year in a row under Conservative-led administrations.

An estimated 4,751 people were sleeping rough in 2017, up 15% on 2016, and 170% since 2010. The rough sleeping figures are based on snapshot counts by volunteers and/or estimates by local councils.

The figures are a further indictment of a failed housing that has seen the number of homeless acceptances by local councils rise by 48% to more than 59,000 from 2010, and the number of households living in temporary accommodation increase by 50% to stand at over 77,000.

In the West Midlands conurbation, covering Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall and Wolverhampton, homelessness is reaching crisis point:

  •  In the seven local authorities, rough sleeping, although still relatively low (at 127 people) has risen by 256% since 2010.
  •  The conurbation saw 5,861 homeless acceptances in 2017 – a rise of 74% since 2010.
  • The number of households in temporary accommodation has escalated by 187% over the same period to stand at 2,038 today.

One of the first actions by the new WMCA Mayor, Andy Street, was to announce action to tackle rough sleeping across the conurbation.

This ‘Change into Action‘ initiative, currently being piloted in Birmingham but to be rolled out across the WMCA area, brings together statutory, housing and voluntary sector agencies to shift support so it is directed into specialist charities and street teams already working to improve the circumstances of rough sleepers.

New and innovative ways to help will be promoted via an interactive information campaign around the city, on social media, at local businesses and online.

Nationally, the government has pledged to halve rough sleeping by 2022, and eradicate it completely by 2027.

The reality, however, is a long-term under-supply of affordable housing. Only a larger and sustained public investment in social housing can hope to ensure that sufficient affordable housing is available to all.

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