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Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

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459 Rough sleepers in England?

May 20 2009
Street homeless numbers are plummeting, but only according to official figures A report released by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) in June claims that street homelessness is down by 75 per cent. According to the DCLG, which has taken over responsibility for homeless issues from the ODPM, there are just 459 rough sleepers in England, compared to 1,850 in 1998. They also found that the number of people becoming homeless in England between January and March 2006 was 23 per cent lower than in the same period the previous year. The statistics were released as the Government confirmed £300m would be invested into preventing homelessness. But not everyone is convinced that the statistics are real indicators of the situation. The Simon Community carried out their own headcount in April, and found 275 rough sleepers in eight London boroughs alone. They also argue that on the same night, out of 3,392 hostel beds available, just 17 were empty. Simon Community director Tim Nicholls is certain that their figures are more accurate than the government's. "Their figures are a severe underestimate," he told The Pavement. "We have service users and former rough sleepers on the counts, and helping to design where we count. I'd say we have more intelligence to gather the facts," he said. "We counted the night before winter shelters shut, which meant another 110 would be on the street. I can't believe there are only 70 rough sleepers in the rest of England." He added: "There are, however, a number of people who are never counted, as most rough sleepers want to remain hidden. A spokesman for the DCLG said that "independent evaluations have confirmed the significant reductions in rough sleeping and the robustness of the count methodology developed by voluntary sector homeless agencies in the 1990s, and is set out in official guidance, as an accurate measure of the problem in different areas, and of change over time." Despite this, many are likely to question these figures, which seem absurdly low.