The latest government statistics show that 4,134 people slept rough across England on any given night in 2016. That’s a 16% increase compared to the previous year, and more than double the amount in 2010.
The number of people bedding down on Bournemouth’s streets has gone up by 225 per cent since 2010. In 2016, an annual overnight count found 39 rough sleepers compared with 16 in 2013 and 31 in 2014.
Is this a true picture of the number of rough sleepers? Until 2010 only those actually ‘bedded down’ in their sleeping bags were counted, not those people standing or sitting next to them but the definition has since broadened to include this group, which would account for some of the increase. Rough sleeping counts and estimates are described as “single night snapshots of the number of people sleeping rough in local authority areas.” (www.gov.uk). The actual number of rough sleepers over the year is, of course, impossible to gauge accurately.
‘Hidden & Homeless’
However accurate, the truth is that rough sleeping figures provide only part of the issue of homelessness. There are tens of thousands of people across the UK thought to be in a situation where they do not have a safe and secure place to live.
The facts are staggering. According to Government statistics (Gov.uk/dclg), the total number of households in temporary accommodation on 30 June 2017 was 78,180, up 7% on a year earlier, and up 63% on the number recorded on 31 December 2010.
These figures include households that have been accepted as ‘statutory homeless’ by their local authority, at which point the authority takes responsibility for their housing.
For a range of reasons, however, many people in difficulty do not qualify for help with housing or they don’t even approach their councils for help. Many stay in hostels, squats or B&Bs, in overcrowded accommodation or ‘concealed’ housing, such as on the floors or sofas of friends and family. These people are unlikely to be counted in official statistics.
Homelessness is also an issue that affects a significant number of young people. According to our colleagues at YMCA England, 13,030 people aged 16-25 were counted as homeless over the last year and more than 1 in 5 people being declared homeless were aged 16-24.
And it affects us locally: in addition to the prevalence of street begging, much of which will be connected to homelessness, homeless applications to Bournemouth Borough Council have increased from 195 in 2012/13 to 522 in 2015/16, an increase of 168%*.
Homelessness is a hugely complex issue. For our part we focus on providing short-term supported housing to vulnerable people and then equipping these residents with the skills they require to achieve or return to independent living.
But we need your help.
If you would like to know how you can support the work of YMCA Bournemouth then please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
*according to Bournemouth Borough Council’s current homeless strategy document (Bournemouth.gov.uk).