Rough sleeper count is an underestimate of the true scale, says Salvation Army

published on 31 Jan 2019

Rough sleeper

31 January 2019

Rough sleeper count is an underestimate of the true scale, says Salvation Army

Following the publication of today’s Rough Sleeping Statistics Autumn 2018, The Salvation Army remains extremely concerned by the high levels of rough sleeping that are being witnessed across England. The total number of people estimated to have slept rough in England in 2018 was 4,677. This represents an increase of 165 percent in levels of rough sleeping since 2010.

However it’s important to recognise these figures do not give an accurate picture of the scale of homelessness and rough sleeping. There are fundamental issues with the methods used for the rough sleeping counts, which inform the statistics, and as such The Salvation Army believes that these figures are likely to represent an underestimate of the true scale of rough sleeping in England. 

In larger urban areas, The Salvation Army continues to urge the government to consider rolling out something similar to the Combined Homelessness & Information Network (CHAIN), which currently monitors levels of rough sleeping in London year round. This would provide a much clearer picture of actual levels of rough sleeping in England, as well as how best to support people who find themselves in this situation.

The Salvation Army believes it’s vital that the government’s rough sleeping strategy receives adequate funding to turn many of its laudable initiatives into practical realities. Local authorities remain under incredible financial pressure, which is invariably hampering their efforts to help resolve issues of rough sleeping in their local areas.  

Like many others, The Salvation Army is awaiting the outcome of the ongoing Fair Funding Review, which will be used to determine how much funding local authorities will have to tackle rough sleeping from 2020 onwards. 

Unless local authorities are to receive a fair settlement to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping based on a range of measures, and not simply the size of their local populations, it is very difficult to see how the government will be able to achieve its stated ambition of halving rough sleeping by 2022, and eradicating it entirely by 2027.

Rough sleeping is dangerous, and cold weather can be very tough for people who are homeless. As temperatures across the country are close to freezing, The Salvation Army will be working together with local organisations and volunteers to run night shelters, giving rough sleepers somewhere safe to stay overnight. We’ll also be opening up beds at our residential lifehouses to increase the capacity for people who need it. Not only this, we offer drop-in services that offer meals, showers, laundry facilities, access to medical attention, and crucially, provide advice services that aim to get rough sleepers off the street and back into independent living.

The Salvation Army would encourage members of the public who are concerned about rough sleeping to download and use the free StreetLink app. The app helps to ensure that people who are sleeping rough can be connected with local services quickly and directly.