More than 30 leading homelessness charities have signed a letter to the prime minister warning that the government is not on track to meet its 2024 target for ending rough sleeping in England.
The signatories include Homeless Link, St Mungo’s, the National Housing Federation, Cranstoun and others.
The organisations had been encouraged by Rishi Sunak’s commitment to the target of ending rough sleeping ‘despite the economic circumstances’, the letter states. ‘However, almost a year down the line, the data shows that we are going backwards in terms of meeting the goal.’
The government’s ‘Everyone In’ strategy during COVID was praised by charities for requiring councils to move everyone sleeping rough – or at risk of sleeping rough – into temporary accommodation, with an August 2021 report from Shelter stating that it showed ‘just how much can be achieved with the right political will and investment.’
However, rough sleeping actually rose by 26 per cent between 2021 and 2022, the letter to the prime minister states, the biggest year-on-year percentage rise in almost a decade. CHAIN, the most detailed homelessness database in the country, also revealed that rough sleeping in London rose in every quarter during 2022-23 compared to the previous year. ‘As service providers, we are seeing these numbers play out on the ground, with more and more people needing our support,’ the letter states. The high rate of inflation means that many providers are trying to manage annual shortfalls ‘in the hundreds of thousands of pounds’ for commissioned services’, it says, with many scaling back services or at risk of closure.
The average age of death for someone experiencing homelessness is 45 for men and 43 for women, the letter points out. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), almost two in five deaths of homeless people are the result of drug poisoning.
‘Rishi Sunak committed to “ending rough sleeping once for and all” during his leadership campaign just last year,’ said Homeless Link CEO Rick Henderson. ‘But all indicators show rough sleeping is rising fast, while homelessness services are struggling with extreme financial pressures caused by historic funding issues and prolonged inflation. Clearly urgent action is needed to protect services. Without it, people will continue to experience the trauma of sleeping rough on our streets.’
‘Inflation continues to have a severe impact on our services and in turn on the people that we support,’ added Changing Lives CEO Stephen Bell. ‘Rising costs for wages, rent and the continued pressure of high energy costs, alongside very few local authorities giving inflationary increases to support contracts mean that we are having to look at what we can provide and potentially reduce our services. This means that people already struggling to make ends meet and find a home will have less access to the support they need to move on.’