07 Dec 2016

Housing and Planning

Annual rough sleeper count figure announced

The number of people sleeping rough in Bristol has been recorded at 74 during the annual count.

Although this represents a drop in the official figure recorded last year, the council and its partners recognises nobody should be forced to sleep rough and remains committed to addressing the problem of homeless and reducing rough sleeping – eventually to zero - in the city.

Last year the official figure was recorded as 97, but this was an estimate based on information and intelligence from partner agencies, rather than an actual count, which was how the data was collected this year.

Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol, has made tackling the issue of homelessness a top priority.

He said: “Homelessness is a major issue in Bristol and is the first focus of our new City Office. Partners across Bristol recognise that it is not acceptable to leave people sleeping on the streets and that no-one should have to spend a second night on the street.

“Rough sleeping is just the tip of the iceberg and there are large numbers of unseen homeless people who also need our help and support.

“Bristol is currently an unequal city, and the fact that we have so many people forced to sleep on the streets is a clear example of this. We all need to work together to support and protect the most vulnerable people in our city.

“This is a complex problem and the solutions have to reflect this. We are working extremely hard with all our partners to get people off the streets as quickly as possible, and at the same time we are looking to bring forward long term solutions to make a real difference.”

Weekly counts of rough sleepers are held across the city, and once a year an official count is commissioned by the Department for Communities and Local Government.

The count is done in accordance with Government requirements, but the council and its partners are aware that there will be other people who are sleeping in unsafe buildings or sofa surfing who are not included in this figure.

Between 1 November 2015 and 31 October 2016 1,022 individuals were supported by St Mungo’s outreach team. Usually around 150 people are being supported by the outreach team at any one time and the vast majority of people being supported will sleep rough only when they have no other options. 

The Rough Sleeping Partnership was set up by Bristol City Council last winter. The partnership is led by St Mungo’s and includes Avon & Somerset Police, Julian Trust, Crisis Centre Ministries Caring in Bristol and the Golden Key Programme to address the problem of street homelessness in the city.

The partnership has opened 65 extra bed spaces since last Christmas including an assessment night centre, a shelter for people with low support needs and some guardianship properties.

They have also run a number of campaigns, including Bristol Street Aware, an initiative aimed at engaging local businesses to help signpost people sleeping rough to the services available to them and the Safer off the Streets campaign which is raising money for the city’s night shelters.

David Ingerslev, of St Mungo’s, co-chair of the Rough Sleeping Partnership said: “The tireless joint work of the Rough Sleeping Partnership has made a long-term difference to over 1,000 people in the last year. Bristol should be rightly proud of its compassion and commitment to tackling the urgent issue of rough sleeping.

“We all need to continue to do everything in our power to reduce rough sleeping. The two main reasons for rough sleeping are relationship breakdown and eviction. Relationship, debt, job or tenancy issues are the early warning signs that could lead to sleeping rough. Taking prompt action can avoid reaching crisis point. If you are having problems, get early advice and guidance. If you know someone who is having problems, have a conversation with them as soon as possible and make sure they know how to get early advice and guidance.”

Tackling homelessness has also been made a priority for the newly formed City Office, which is bringing together key agencies and prominent figures in city leadership.

The group has been tasked with bringing forward a mix of short term and long terms solutions to help people off the streets and prevent homelessness occurring.

Councillor Paul Smith, Cabinet Member for Homes and Communities, said: “There are far too many people sleeping rough on the streets of Bristol, and every one of them is an individual and should not be treated as a statistic.

"The partnerships we have created have the ambition to ensure that no-one has to sleep out. Progress is being made, but there is a lot more to be done, especially during these periods of cold weather.”

To connect someone sleeping rough in Bristol with support you can use StreetLink.

StreetLink is England’s only phone-line, website and mobile app that allows members of the public to send an alert when they see someone sleeping rough and connect them to local services. Visit www.streetlink.org.uk or download the app for Apple and Android devices.