Large fall in number of people sleeping rough shows just what can be achieved

St Mungo’s responds as Government publish latest snapshot Rough Sleeping Statistics.

The 37% drop in the number of people sleeping on the streets is testament to the success of ‘Everyone In’ and demonstrates that ending rough sleeping can be achieved.

That is the response of leading homelessness charity St Mungo’s to the Government’s latest snapshot rough sleeping figures for England which were released today (25 February).

The data published by the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), shows that, nationally, the number of people sleeping rough on a single autumn night has dropped from 4,266 in 2019 to 2,688 in 2020 – the lowest number in seven years.

The statistics also show that last autumn:

  • Most people sleeping rough in England were male, aged over 26 years old and from the UK
  • Almost a quarter of the people rough sleeping were non-UK nationals (23%), and
  • In London, there were 714 people estimated to be sleeping rough on a single night in 2020 – a decrease of 422 since 2019 and a reduction of over a third.

Reacting to the figures Chief Executive of St Mungo’s Steve Douglas CBE, said: “Since March last year we have seen an unprecedented effort to support people off the streets to help protect them from Covid-19.

“The ‘Everyone In’ initiative saw a multi-agency, mutli-faceted, multi-skilled emergency response and prompted partnership working between central and local government, health and housing, homelessness charities and housing associations on a scale never seen before, in towns and cities across the country.

“Today’s data – which was collected during autum’s lockdown – is testament to what has been accomplished and shows clearly what can be achieved in the future. Now we need to translate that emergency response into the way we work every day.

“We know when we work together – cross party, cross government and cross sector – ending rough sleeping is achievable.

“And I am pleased to see the Prime Minister reiterating the strong commitment across Government to achieve this.”

The MHCLG figures are based on a single night snapshot street count or estimates from local councils which are verified and agreed by Homeless Link.  And do not include people who live in hostels or other temporary accommodation.

There is a fairly consistent fall in rough sleeping across the country and in some of the areas where St Mungo’s works the reduction has been significant. For example:

  • In the London borough of Westminster, which consistently has the highest population of people sleeping rough in England, there were 91 fewer people recorded in 2020 than in 2019 down from 333 to 242 (-27%)
  • In Brighton figures show a huge fall of 69% – with numbers decreasing from 88 people in 2019 to 27 in 2020, and
  • In Bristol, the number of people almost halved reducing from 98 in 2019 to 50 in 2020

Mr Douglas continued: “Undeniably, the pandemic has strengthened partnership working and created an unprecedented opportunity to build relationships and help support thousands of people to recover from homelessness. Many of whom have been accommodated for the first time in years.

“However, we know that homelessness is not a static issue. With the economic downturn and rising unemployment, it is more important than ever that we work hard to stem the flow of people coming to the streets, and help those who are already rough sleeping to move on from homelessness for good,” he said.

Referencing the need to prepare for the future Mr Douglas said: “All the emergency help that has been provided to people via measures such as the increase in Universal Credit, the furlough scheme, and the eviction ban have helped, but they are temporary.

“And the worry is what will happen when they end? There needs to be a long-term recovery plan so we don’t see a tide of people facing homelessness in the future.

“We have to build on what has been achieved. And St Mungo’s is ready to work with our sector colleagues, our local partners, health service professionals, and both local and national government to help ensure the momentum from the last 12 months continues as we work together towards our shared aims of preventing homelessness, and ending rough sleeping.”