Number of people sleeping rough up by a quarter

The number of people estimated to be sleeping rough in England on a single night in Autumn 2023 was up by more than a quarter on the previous year, according to the latest figures from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities. 

rough sleeper in front of a supermarket
London saw the largest increase in the number of people estimated to be sleeping rough, at 1,132 – more than 30 per cent up from 2022’s figure of 858.

The estimated figure of 3,898 was 27 per cent higher than 2022’s total, according to Rough sleeping snapshot in England: Autumn 2023. While the government points out that the figure is 9 per cent lower than in 2019 – before the introduction of its ‘Everyone In’ scheme during COVID – and 18 per cent lower than the peak figure in 2017, it is still an increase of 120 per cent since 2010 when the ‘snapshot’ approach was first introduced. 

London saw the largest increase in the number of people estimated to be sleeping rough, at 1,132 – more than 30 per cent up from 2022’s figure of 858. Almost half of all people sleeping rough are in London and the South East, consistent with previous years, although rough sleeping increased in every region compared to 2022. The majority of people sleeping rough in England are male, over 26 and from the UK, the report states. However, the number of women sleeping rough was also up by 22 per cent to 568. 

Last year more than 30 homelessness organisations signed an open letter warning that the government was likely to miss its target of ending rough sleeping in England by the end of this year ( The average age of death for someone sleeping rough is 44, with nearly two in five deaths of homeless people related to drug poisoning ( 

St Mungo’s chief executive Emma Haddad said the government’s ambition to end rough sleeping had been ‘undermined by a string of policy decisions that are not about prevention but more a quick fix – we need a new political approach that takes a strategic view across the whole housing system and beyond’.

Shelter pointed out that the new figures are likely to be an underestimate, as ‘people who sleep in less visible locations can be missed’ while Crisis chief executive Matt Downie called the figures ‘a source of national shame’. They constituted a sign of extreme inequality that must ‘prompt a rethink at the highest levels of government’, he said. ‘It cannot be overstated how dehumanising sleeping on the streets is. Through our frontline services we hear directly from people who have been spat at, urinated on or attacked simply because they do not have the security of a safe home. Things have got to change. To bring these numbers down, we urgently need the Westminster government to put long-term funding into the proven solutions we know help people to leave the streets behind, such as Housing First.’ 

February 2024 DDN
February 2024 DDN looked at tobacco harm reduction for people sleeping rough

The ‘appalling’ spike in rough sleeping pointed to a situation that was ‘out of control’ and demanded emergency action, added Homeless Link’s director of social change Fiona Colley. ‘Sleeping rough is a deeply traumatic experience that severely impacts people’s mental and physical health. If a healthy society is judged by how it supports its most vulnerable citizens, then today’s statistics are truly shameful.  A range of long-term factors are behind this steep increase, including a severe shortage of affordable homes, a punitive welfare system and insufficient mental health support. We urge the chancellor to use the spring budget to safeguard essential homelessness support by announcing an emergency backdated inflationary uplift to homelessness funding.’

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