More rough sleepers in Birmingham – despite Government manifesto promise - how homeless can get help

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More people were sleeping rough in Birmingham last year, new figures show

Rough sleepers across England have risen for the first time since 2017 - despite a Government manifesto promise to end rough sleeping by 2024.

In Birmingham Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities figures show 39 people were estimated to be sleeping rough based on a snapshot of a single night in autumn last year – up from 31 the year before.

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Charities have called for greater action from the government, with Shelter saying homelessness is in a "bleak situation" with a rising number of rough sleepers and tens of thousands of households turning up at local councils asking for help. It urged the Government to unfreeze housing benefit – which remains at 2020 levels – and build more affordable social homes.

Meanwhile, Birmingham City Council has described the situation as “disappointing” and said the lifting of Covid restrictions had impacted the rise. The figures suggest 3,069 people were estimated to be sleeping rough in England last year – a 26% rise on the 2,443 rough sleepers in 2021.

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: "Today’s figures show that more and more people are losing the battle to keep a roof over their heads. We’re facing a truly bleak situation." Ms Neate called on the Government to unfreeze housing benefit and "build social homes with rents pegged to local incomes".

Homeless Link, the national membership charity for frontline homelessness organisations, said the rise in rough sleepers "represents a massive, collective failure". Chief executive Rick Henderson said: "People are being let down by systems that should protect them, forced onto the streets at the expense of their physical and mental health.

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"The 26% rise is evidence of how the cost-of-living crisis has exacerbated long-standing drivers of homelessness, such as a shortage of affordable housing, an often-punitive welfare system and increasingly stretched health services."

Mr Henderson also urged the Government to address funding shortages in the upcoming Spring Budget, unfreeze housing benefit and deliver on rental reforms to prevent further people from becoming homeless.

Rise in rough sleepers in BirminghamRise in rough sleepers in Birmingham
Rise in rough sleepers in Birmingham

What are the overall rough sleepers for England and how does this compare to Birmingham?

The figures also show the rate of rough sleepers has risen across the country – from 4.3 per 100,000 people in 2021 to 5.4 per 100,000 last year.

In Birmingham, 3.4 per 100,000 people were estimated to be sleeping rough last year – up from 2.7 the previous year. Birmingham City Council pointed out that there was still an overall reduction in rough sleepers in the city in the last four years and cited the following statistics:

On a single night in

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  • 2018 - 91 people were found bedded down
  • 2019 - 52 people were found bedded down
  • 2020 - 17 people were found bedded down
  • 2021 - 31 people were found bedded down
  • 2022 - 39 people were found bedded down

What is the Government going to do about the rise in rough sleepers?

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said rough sleeping remains below pre-pandemic levels but admits "there is more to do" to end rough sleeping for good.

A spokesperson said Section 21 no-fault evictions will be abolished and £2 billion will be invested over the next three years. The Government has also invested £11.5 billion to deliver affordable homes for rent and to buy across the country, they added.

Birmingham Council HouseBirmingham Council House
Birmingham Council House

What has Birmingham City Council said about the rise in rough sleepers?

Councillor Sharon Thompson. Cabinet Member for Housing and Homelessness, at Birmingham City Council, said: “Recent years have seen a marked reduction in the number of people sleeping rough in the city.

“The 2022 count saw a further small increase in the number of people found to be rough sleeping in Birmingham on a typical night, but this shouldn’t be taken out of context. The increase in the 2022 count from 31 to 39 is disappointing but reflects the complete lifting of covid restrictions and is in line with the situation nationally, where there has been a 26% increase.

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“It should also be noted that for Birmingham as the largest Local Authority in the country, while the figure for rough sleeping may appear comparatively high, when considered as a proportion of the city’s population, the rate of rough sleeping is markedly lower than many other areas.”

Ms Thompson added: “Birmingham City Council is working with partners towards a future where no one is sleeping rough on the streets of this city. However, people sleeping rough have been impacted by the national housing crisis and the erosion of protections previously in place.

“Despite this throughout 2022 we maintained all our support and outreach services. There are outreach workers commissioned by the City Council, working on the streets to help people sleeping rough, 7 days a week, 24 hours a day and night. This includes an accommodation offer for all and the support of substance misuse workers, health workers, and youth workers.

“Birmingham has been awarded funding through the Rough Sleepers Initiative and other Government programmes to continue providing this support and offer a range of wellbeing and befriending services to give people a route out of the cycle of rough sleeping.

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LilyAnne's workers have helped dozens of rough sleepers by working with partner agencies.LilyAnne's workers have helped dozens of rough sleepers by working with partner agencies.
LilyAnne's workers have helped dozens of rough sleepers by working with partner agencies.

What can I do if I am at risk of becoming homeless and sleeping rough - or if I am concerned about someone who is already sleeping rough?

Anyone at risk should seek support to prevent them becoming homelessness. Ms Thompson explained that Birmingham City Council provides a number of routes for this which can be found on the website at Birmingham City Council Homeless. Ms Thompson explained that this includes partnerships with organisations such as Trident Reach, Sifa-Fireside, St Basil’s and Spring Housing

Anyone concerned about someone who may be sleeping rough should notify the team through Streetlink - the outreach team follow up on every notification. When temperatures hit freezing Ms Thompson said that the City Council also activates the Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP) and redoubles its efforts to encourage anyone remaining on the streets to come into accommodation.

Anyone wishing to support rough sleepers can do so by donating to Change into Action where all funds donated go directly to helping people off the streets ’

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