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Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

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Street numbers rise

September 26 2009
Simon Community street count reveals higher numbers sleeping rough An independent street count of London's homeless has recorded a 50 per cent increase in the number of people sleeping rough, despite government figures claiming that homelessness is in decline. The Simon Community's bi-annual count found 345 sleeping rough in the capital, compared to 226 for the same period last year. Figures from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, the government office charged with homeless policy, put the number of rough sleepers at 191 in March. Ian Lock, director of The Simon Community, said that its street count gives an accurate account of rough sleeping in the capital. "We know where to go and are close to what's happening on the street," he said. He added that the time in which the count is conducted - between midnight and 4am - means that people are bedded down for the night. The count took place in the early hours of Saturday 29th October, when 22 teams, made up of volunteers and friends of The Simon Community, counted the number of rough sleepers across the boroughs of Camden, Southwark, Islington, Kensington & Chelsea, Lambeth, Tower Hamlets, The City of London and Westminster. On the same evening the charity contacted 87 hostels in the areas, and found that of 4,160 beds for homeless people, only 55 were available. Lock is calling for more joined-up thinking in provision for the homeless in London. "Even if all the 345 rough sleepers wanted a bed indoors for the night, there are not enough beds for them to go to," he said. Claiming that there were not enough quality hostel beds in the capital and insufficient move-on accommodation, Lock added that although support for rough sleepers who take up tenancies has improved, the government must re-introduce coordination across the boroughs, relax the rules on local connection criteria, enable those in hostels to access move-on accommodation and develop appropriate facilities for homeless people ineligible for benefits. The next government street count takes place on 23rd November, but, importantly, before midnight. The Simon Community is planning to send out five or six teams on the same night after midnight, to compare government and independent figures more accurately. The government's Homelessness Innovation Fund has awarded a grant worth £185,000 to Homeless Link to pilot a move-on plan. The pilot aims at unblocking hostel beds for homeless people by bringing hostel providers and local authorities together to increase the range of housing options for move- on residents. Jenny Edwards, chief executive of Homeless Link, said: "This grant is a clear indication of the government's commitment to resolving this issue. The project is an important new element in our ongoing work to help the Government meet its target of halving the numbers in temporary accommodation by 2010."
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