The number of people sleeping rough on the streets of Newcastle has risen again, a year after a charity declared there was a bed in the city for everyone. The increase is mirrored elsewhere in the North East and in every region of England.
Now Labour’s Shadow Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Minister, Paula Barker, has urged the government not to “stand idly by” while people are hit by a “toxic mix” of rising rents and the risk of no-fault eviction.
The local charity Street Zero stated a year ago that “Newcastle is now a city where no one needs to sleep rough.”
The claim on the charity’s website and dated 15 February 2022 came just six weeks before the Office for National Statistics (ONS) issued statistics showing that the previous autumn the number of rough sleepers in Newcastle had been nine.
Now new figures from the ONS published this week show that the number counted in the city in autumn 2022 was up to 14.
Street Zero did not claim to have eliminated rough sleeping in Newcastle. According to its website:
“[T]here is a bed for everyone. In real terms, anybody who finds themselves without a place to stay will be offered accommodation in Newcastle. Ongoing and unexpected life events cause people to sleep rough at short notice; the aim is, therefore, to drive to as close to zero as possible…
“Ending rough sleeping for good will only ever be achieved by investing in strategies that prevent this scenario in the first place. It means ensuring that anyone who does sleep rough receives a rapid, personalised response, making it a rare, brief and nonrecurring experience where possible.
“In Newcastle, Street Zero has achieved a status where no one needs to sleep rough. We will prevent those at risk from sleeping rough wherever possible, and when it does occur, it should be rare, brief and nonrecurring.”
Street Zero, a not-for-profit partnership between the public sector, businesses, charities, and community organisations, mounted a four-year campaign between 2018 and 2022 to end rough sleeping in Newcastle. According to its website it secured £3mn in government grants and furnished 160 tenanted flats and a £2mn hostel redevelopment.
This week’s ONS figures show that the North East saw a slightly above-average percentage increase in rough sleepers between autumn 2021 and autumn 2022, though the total number remained the lowest in England. The number of people sleeping rough in the region on one snapshot night in autumn 2022 was 61, a rise of 27% on the 48 counted a year earlier.
London saw the largest increase in England of 34% followed by the South East and West Midlands on 29% and then the North East. In England overall the number of rough sleepers rose by 26% from 2,443 to 3,069. This was the highest figure since the number peaked in 2017 and followed four years of decline.
According to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) the national figure was down 28% from 2019 which was before Covid-19-related measures which may have reduced people’s risk of rough sleeping, particularly in 2020.
It was down 35% since the 2017 peak but up 74% since 2010 when the one-night snapshot approach to measuring rough sleeping was introduced, said the DLUHC.
Most people sleeping rough in England are male, aged over 26 years old and from the UK, said the department. This was similar to previous years.
Shadow Minister Paula Barker told Labour List:
“Despite a government promise to eradicate rough sleeping by the end of this parliament, the numbers of people sleeping rough is going up yet again. The government cannot stand idly by while a toxic mix of rising rents, the cost-of-living crisis and a failure to end no-fault evictions hit vulnerable people. Labour would immediately ban Section 21 [no fault] evictions and stabilise the economy to support families struggling to make ends meet.”
The DLUHC told Labour List:
“We know there is more to do to help families at risk of losing their homes and to end rough sleeping for good.”