Sleeping rough in the UK: “I never expected to be on the streets”
Margot Miller and Dennis Moore
10 February 2018
For the seventh consecutive year, rough sleeping in the UK is on the rise, according to recently published government figures. An estimated 4,751 people were sleeping out on the streets of England for the year 2017. This represents an increase of 15 percent on the previous year and 169 percent since 2010.
The actual figure is estimated by some to be almost double that, possibly as high as 9,100 for the UK.
Figures for London show a rise of 18 percent, and the capital accounts for nearly a quarter of all rough sleepers. Homelessness is no longer confined to the major cities and has become a national crisis. Outside London rough sleeping rose by 14 percent, with the biggest regional increase of 39 percent in the north west, almost doubling in the last two years. Particularly hard hit are Salford, Tameside and Manchester.
Balbir Chatrik, director of policy at the homeless charity Centrepoint, said, “These figures are shocking, but they only attempt to count the number of people sleeping rough on one night. We know there are thousands more young people who are hidden homeless, sofa-surfing for months on end, sleeping on public transport or staying with strangers just to find a bed for the night.”
The director of policy and external affairs at the Crisis charity, Matt Downie, also urged caution regarding the government’s statistics. Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s “You and Yours,” he explained that the government based their figures on an estimate by 83 percent of local councils―only 17 percent did an actual head count. “Academics in the field” point to “8,000 rough sleepers in England, 800 in Scotland and 300 in Wales,” he said.