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Rough sleepers number nearly five times higher than government estimates

Words: Huw Morris
Homeless man on street

More than 24,000 people are sleeping rough on the streets or in tents, cars, sheds, bins, trains or night buses, according to a leading homelessness charity.

Research for Crisis suggests that 12,300 people are sleeping on the streets, with another 12,000 sleeping in hidden locations. This is nearly five times the official figure.

The estimates, by researchers at Heriot-Watt University, indicate that rough sleepers have increased by 98 per cent across Britain since 2010 while the number of those spending the night in tents and buses has risen by 103 per cent.

The increases are most felt in England with 120 per cent, and Wales with 75 per cent between 2012 and 2017. Rough sleeping fell by 6 per cent in Scotland during that period.

The government’s official street count puts the number of rough sleepers at 4,751. Crisis said this underestimates the true scale of the issue because many local authorities provide an estimate rather than a true count, some counts are based on visible rough sleepers on a specific given night and do not capture those spending the night in hidden locations.

“This situation simply cannot continue,” said chief executive Jon Sparkes. “While the Scottish government has taken the first step in announcing a plan to eradicate homelessness, full implementation cannot come soon enough. Meanwhile, the governments in England and Wales must step up urgently with their own plans to end this crisis.”

Image credit | iStock