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Rough sleeper numbers fall but the ‘root causes’ remain

Count: 4,677 are sleeping rough, data shows PICTURE: GETTY

THE number of people sleeping rough in England has fallen for the first time in eight years, new figures show.

There were 4,677 people sleeping on the streets on a single night last autumn, down 74 — two per cent — on 2017 data, the ministry of housing, communities and local government said.

But with numbers up from 2,909 in 2010, when records began, charities are calling for ‘fundamental action to tackle the root causes of homelessness’.

The data also showed a 13 per cent rise in London, with 1,283 sleeping on the streets. Paul Noblet, of the charity Centrepoint, warned: ‘These figures are the tip of a much larger iceberg as they only attempt to count the number of people sleeping rough on one night.’

Jon Sparkes of Crisis called the scale of the issue a ‘damning reflection on our society’, while Polly Neate, of Shelter, said a combination of spiralling rents, a faulty benefits system and lack of social housing had led to a ‘dramatic’ rise in homelessness since 2010.

Councils said tackling rough sleeping would be ‘increasingly difficult’ due to an expected funding gap of £100million for homelessness services next year.

Communities secretary James Brokenshire said the drop was ‘a step in the right direction’, but said he did not underestimate the task ahead in achieving the goal of eliminating rough sleeping altogether by 2027.

Shadow housing secretary John Healey said the government’s numbers ‘are a massive undercount of the true level of rough sleeping’.