Rough sleeping has fallen by 9% in England since last year to 4,266 people, annual official figures confirmed today.
It is the second year in a row that rough sleeping has fallen on one “snapshot” night – and it comes after the government launched a Rough Sleeping Initiative to get people off the streets.
But the total is still up 141% since the Tories took power in 2010 – when just 1,768 were on the streets.
And it leaves Conservatives with a battle to wipe out rough sleeping entirely by 2024, as they pledged in their election manifesto.
There were 4,677 rough sleepers on a single night in 2018, down 74 (2%) from 4,751 in 2017.
Today’s figures show that, for the first time in six years, rough sleeping has fallen in London – down 11% to 1,136.
But it rose in the South West – from 458 to 490 – and in the North East from 66 to 67. It also rose 9% in Westminster to 333 – making Parliament’s local council by far the worst offender in the country.
The South East had 900 rough sleepers; the North West had 349 and the West Midlands had 319.
The majority of people sleeping rough are male, over 26 and from the UK.
But separate official figures show a growing number of older people have been forced to seek help for homelessness over the last five years.
And just before Christmas the number of homeless children hit a 13-year high – with 127,370 were stuck in temporary accommodation between April and June.
Meanwhile Labour have warned rough sleeping in the UK could be five times worse than the current UK government figures.
The rough sleeping figures are only a one-night count – and a BBC investigation revealed that as many as 28,000 people were recorded sleeping rough in a year.
Estimated number of rough sleepers in England
Shadow Housing Secretary John Healey said: “Any apparent fall in street sleeping is welcome but everyone knows these misleading statistics are an unreliable undercount of the true scale of the problem.
“Even on these partial figures, the Government is still set to break its own pledge to end rough sleeping by the end of the Parliament, which it isn’t set to achieve until 2037 at the current rate of progress.
“Ministers won’t fix the crisis of rough sleeping until they deal with the root causes of the problem, which means facing up to the impact of deep cuts to housing, social security and homelessness services since 2010.”
It came as Boris Johnson today unveiled £236m extra for getting rough sleepers off the streets. The new money will go on providing 6,000 more spaces in the successful Housing First-style ‘move on’ scheme for those immediately at risk.
Meanwhile Dame Louise Casey, an independent homelessness expert, has been appointed to undertake an urgent review into the problem. Her review will advise ministers on additional action required to end rough sleeping within five years.
Shelter welcomed the cash but said homelessness has been “made infinitely worse by a dire lack of social homes and cuts to housing benefit”. Chief executive Polly Neate added: “On top of this, cuts to local mental health and social care services have removed much needed support for many people in crisis. ”
Jon Sparkes, Chief Executive of Crisis, said: “As the most brutal and devastating form of homelessness, it’s right that the Prime Minister is focusing on ending rough sleeping and dedicating funding to this.
“But ultimately, we need this money to translate into real homes rather than paying to keep people homeless in hostels and night shelters.”
Boris Johnson, who oversaw a steep rise in rough sleeping as London mayor, was due to visit a homelessness charity today.
He said: “It is simply unacceptable that we still have so many people sleeping on the streets, and I am absolutely determined to end rough sleeping once and for all.”