Numbers are consistent with this time last year where 86 people were seen visibly rough sleeping. The count does not include people who are sleeping in unsafe buildings and vehicles or sofa-surfing.
New measures, such as the opening of St Anne’s Shelter, the first 24 hour winter shelter, and keeping the Julian Trust Night Shelter open seven days a week through the winter, will help during the colder months.
Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol, has made tackling the issue of homelessness a top priority and is working with partners to continue reducing the number of rough sleepers by ensuring everyone has a safe place to sleep.
He said: “We are joining up with city partners to make sure that people who find themselves homeless are supported and will keep focused on this until the number of rough sleepers in Bristol is zero.
“Sleeping on the streets is not safe so as a city we cannot ignore the issue or overlook the challenges some people face. We know however rough sleeping is a complex issue so are committed to having an approach that understands the individual support needs of each person.”
In line with the challenge nationally, Bristol has seen an increase of people sleeping rough over the past five years and the last two quarterly counts have found 126 sleeping rough on the street.
Quarterly counts of rough sleepers are held across the city, and once a year an official count is commissioned by the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government.
The official annual count uses the same methodology as the quarterly counts except quarterly counts are conducted between 5am and 8am rather than between 2am and 5am.
Councillor Paul Smith, Cabinet Member for Housing, said: “This number would have been much higher without the funding which allowed us to open St Anne’s House and increase the opening hours at the Julian Trust to seven days a week until March.
“It is very concerning that the underlying trend for rough sleeping is rising across the city, especially during the difficult cold winter months.
“We are very aware that people sleeping rough only represent a very small portion of the wider homelessness issue in Bristol with hundreds of families in temporary accommodation and many other people forced to live in vehicles or in other unsuitable circumstances.
“We are working closely with partners to support rough sleepers and homeless people in a number of ways, but the problem remains that people are finding themselves on the streets quicker than we can support people into suitable accommodation.
“We need to continue to focus on early intervention and prevention, to stop people becoming homeless in the first place. We need people to look for support and advice as early as possible, so we can try and keep people in their homes whenever possible.
“Lack of social housing remains a major issue across the country and we are working hard with a variety of partners to accelerate all forms of housing building across the city.”
Alongside the shelter spaces, the DCLG-funded Social Impact Bond (SiB) for long term rough sleepers and the homelessness pathways are supporting people to move off the streets.
It is hoped that new support staff will help to move people through the pathways more quickly, matching them to the right level of supported accommodation. This will then free up bed spaces for people sleeping rough.
The council is also applying for a number of other funding streams to help support those who find themselves homeless which will hopefully have a positive impact on street homelessness over the next 12 months.
David Ingerslev, St Mungo’s Rough Sleeper Senior Service Manager said: “We are pleased that the opening of St Anne’s demonstrates a reduction in the numbers of people found rough sleeping during the annual street count. It was challenging to get the new 24-hour shelter open in time for winter. At the time of the street count St Anne’s had 20 people staying and we are now at 24. The people staying at St Anne’s have been moved on from the city night shelters and therefore freeing up space for people currently rough sleeping. We are making progress, in the last year St Mungo’s worked with 770 people but there is more work to do and we will continue to fight for vulnerable people to be safer off the streets.”
The Rough Sleeping Partnership was set up by Bristol City Council in 2015. The partnership is led by St Mungo’s and includes, 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 a number of extra bed spaces over the last two years, including the St Anne’s Shelter, an assessment night centre, a shelter for people with low support needs and some guardianship properties.