Rough sleeping statistics — understanding the method behind the latest street count figures

Catherine Parsons, Thames Reach’s Director of Operations, explains how the latest MHCLG figures on rough sleeping in England were compiled

Rough sleeping statistics — understanding the method behind the latest street count figures

Every year, on a nationally agreed date between October and December, local authorities across England undertake to collect details on the people who are sleeping rough in their area on a particular night. Thames Reach supports many London councils to coordinate street counts in which volunteers travel around the area physically counting and recording details on individuals seen sleeping rough. This information is independently verified and then submitted to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), to produce the annual figures, the latest of which were announced yesterday, 27 February.

These figures represent a snapshot of a single night and can be affected by the weather, or by the availability of accommodation or other services on the night in question. The figure recorded could be higher or lower than the days before or after the count, and doesn’t indicate how long people have been sleeping rough, or why, or what their support needs might be.  

Most areas with significant levels of rough sleeping adopt the street count methodology. However, some authorities will choose to estimate the number of people sleeping rough in their area instead.  They do this using an ‘intelligence-led’ process that involves local agencies and other services like the local council and police. Some other authorities produce a figure based on a combination of snapshot street counts and intelligence. This approach is often used in rural areas, or areas where people tend to sleep in places that may be unsafe for volunteers, and it should be clear, when these figures are published, that the result is derived from an estimate rather than a count.

These MHCLG figures are used nationally to provide comparisons on rough sleeping in different areas and to compare changes over time. This year, they show us that 4,266 people were estimated to be sleeping rough on a single night in autumn 2019. A figure that is down by 411 people, or 9%, from last year, but up by 2,498 people, or 141%, since 2010.

In many of the areas where Thames Reach works, we also complete additional street counts every two months. This helps us to understand the scale of rough sleeping in hotspots such as Heathrow Airport, and to judge the impact of the work we are doing to help people off the streets.

While the street counts are a large scale process across England, in London there is additional, and more accurate, information available on rough sleeping through the Combined Homelessness and Information Network (CHAIN), a database commissioned and funded by the Greater London Authority. CHAIN data is collected by outreach teams, who record all their instances of contact with rough sleepers across London 365 days a year. CHAIN reports provide information about how many people are seen sleeping rough over a longer period of time, their support needs, and their reasons for becoming homeless. 

The latest reports from CHAIN show that, whilst the number of rough sleepers continues to increase, funding from central government is also enabling outreach services to move more people off the streets quicker. Between October and December 2019, outreach services in London helped 1,655 people into some form of accommodation. Having this kind of information available helps demonstrate what methods and services, such as our new rapid response team, are proving effective in helping people off the streets, and where we can do more.

Housing First scheme launched to support former rough sleepers

New Housing First scheme underway

Housing First scheme launched to support former rough sleepers

A new scheme called Housing First has been launched and is currently being delivered by Thames Reach and Croydon Council. The aim of the scheme is to get people who are at risk of homelessness into their own accommodation.

The scheme, which was initially set up in 2018, is aimed at supporting people with a history of sleeping rough to settle into their own accommodation, and get the immediate support they need to prevent them returning to the streets.

Through this scheme, 20 people will receive a key to their own flat, and will be supported by a Thames Reach key worker who will help tenants to access specialist support for their needs. This may include access to local health, skills, benefits and employability services.

Key workers will also support the tenants to source furniture, helping them to create a home where they feel comfortable and can take steps towards independent living.  

Jakub Turek, Senior Practitioner at Thames Reach who manages the service said;

“So far, five people, including one person who was referred from Thames Reach’s Social Impact Bond (SIB) service have moved into refurbished accommodation across Croydon.

“The current tenants have quickly become settled and are excited to explore their options for the future, whether that’s volunteering, rehab, training or employment.

“Our key workers are a vital part of the journey, and support people using a flexible step by step approach, ensuring everyone has the opportunity to progress at a pace which is right for them.

“Accommodation isn’t the whole solution, but it is part of the solution in helping people move away from homelessness, and through Housing First we will ensure the tenants have access to a range of support services, giving them the opportunity to move forward with their lives”.

Kris Draper, Area Director at Thames Reach said:

“It’s vital that rough sleepers are able to rapidly move into and keep accommodation where they can feel safe”

“Five more people are now in the process of accessing their own accommodation through Housing First, and we are looking forward to working with more people and helping them to make positive changes

“This service would not be a success without our partnership with Croydon Council so we would like to thank them for their support and assistance”.  

Housing First is one of many ways that Thames Reach and Croydon Council are helping people to move away from homelessness.

Response to the MHCLG annual rough sleeping statistics

Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government release annual figures

Response to the MHCLG annual rough sleeping statistics

The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG)  has today released their official rough sleeping statistics for Autumn 2018.

The numbers are gathered annually in England using street counts which are carried out by charities and local authorities on a single representative night. The leading statistic shows that 4,677 people were found to be sleeping rough on that evening, a 2% reduction from Autumn 2017 when the number was 4,751.

The figures show that London accounted for 27% of all rough sleepers, up from 24% last year, showing that rough sleeping in the capital is still very much on the rise.

Figure counts from the evening in Autumn 2018 also show that the number of EU nationals sleeping rough in London is at an all-time high, with this group accounting for 22% of all rough sleepers – up from 16% last year.

The statistics are significantly higher for this group in London, with EU rough sleepers accounting for 48% of the total count in the capital.

Catherine Parsons, Director of Operations at Thames Reach, said: “Any reduction is encouraging, and shows the initial impact of the additional resources and co-ordination through the rough sleeping initiative.

“Although the number has fallen slightly at a national level, the numbers of those sleeping rough in London continue to rise, an increase largely driven by people from the EU and new rough sleepers.

The London figures are reflected in the quarterly CHAIN data, published today. These figures can be accessed here.

You can read the MHCLG statistics here.

Latest CHAIN figures show further rise in rough sleeping in London

CHAIN stats for Oct – Dec 2018 rise 25% on same quarter in 2017

Latest CHAIN figures show further rise in rough sleeping in London

The latest statistics released by the Combined Homelessness and Information Network (CHAIN) for the period 1 October – 31 December 2018 has shown another rise in the number of people sleeping rough in London, rising 6% on the previous quarter and 25% on the same period in 2017.

The figures also show a very concerning rise in new rough sleepers, with the number of people new to streets 38% higher than the same period last year.

Catherine Parsons, Director of Operations at Thames Reach, said: “This worrying statistic demonstrates a need for more preventative services to ensure less people end up finding themselves on the streets.”

The data also shows that 83% of new rough sleepers were helped off the streets after just one night, highlighting the good work being done by GLA commissioned services, as well as the impact of additional resources recently allocated to support this service.

People from Central and Eastern Europe now represent 32% of all rough sleepers in London.

“As we have said before, there are growing concerns for this group as many have very limited support options available to them,” said Catherine.

“We want to work with central government to identify new options for EU rough sleepers and to do more to prevent people ending up on the streets in the first place.”

Latest statistics show worrying rise in rough sleeping

CHAIN statistics for July – September 2018 show a sharp increase in rough sleeping in London

Latest statistics show worrying rise in rough sleeping

The Combined Homelessness and Information Network (CHAIN) statistics for the period 1 July  – 30 September 2018 show a worrying rise in the number of people sleeping rough in London, with a 17% rise on the same period last year and a 20% rise on the preceding quarter.

There has been a very concerning rise in the number of people new to the streets. The number of new rough sleepers has risen 28% on the preceding quarter and 20% on the same quarter last year. Meanwhile, the number of people sleeping on the streets for intermittent periods is 22% higher than during the same quarter in 2017.

The latest statistics also show a small rise in the number of people from Central and Eastern Europe sleeping rough. Thames Reach remains very concerned about this group who now represent 28% of the total number of rough sleepers in London. This group often have very limited options.

Thames Reach chief executive Bill Tidnam said: ‘We hope that the new initiatives being developed by central government and the Greater London Authority, working alongside local authorities, will soon begin to make a difference to these figures, ensuring that anyone sleeping rough gets the help they need to leave the streets quicker and stay off them for good.’