Annual rough sleeping count figure revealed: Homelessness strategy

27 Feb 2020

Annual rough sleeping count figure revealed

The number of people sleeping rough in Bristol has been recorded at 98 during the city’s official annual count.

Despite a range of measures in place to help reduce rough sleeping, this is an increase of 16 from previous official annual account which found 82 people sleeping rough. The count does not include people who are sleeping in unsafe buildings and vehicles or sofa-surfing.

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: “It is incredibly disappointing to see a rise in the number of people found rough sleeping in the city. We are working with organisations across the city to tackle all forms of homelessness and we remain committed to supporting some of the most vulnerable people in Bristol. Sleeping on the streets is not safe and we cannot allow this to continue.

“We know that the issues that lead to people sleeping on the streets are complex, and that everyone is an individual. Therefore we know there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution. We need to make sure our support options are tailored to the individual to give them the best possible chance of getting off the streets and in to suitable accommodation.

“There is a lot of support and services available for people who are rough sleeping, or at risk of homelessness, I would encourage people to take that first step to reach out and get help.”

Working with partners, the council offers a range of prevention services including a welfare rights and money advice service and a Youth Homelessness hub (Bristol Youth MAPS) to help young people to stay with their families where possible. These interventions stopped more than 3,600 people from becoming homeless in 2018, and figures indicate a similar number of people will have been supported in 2019.

In addition in 2019 organisations collectively helped more than 1,200 people who were rough sleeping, via a range of support services including the successful St Anne’s Winter Night Shelter.

Last month Bristol received a £2.8 million of Government funding to improve front line support for people rough sleeping or those at risk of homelessness over the next two years.

Around a £1million of the funding will be used to run two year round shelters – one of which could be at St Anne’s House, which is currently being used as a shelter during the winter months.

The money will also be used to provide:

  • A specialist mental health nurse to work within the Outreach team.
  • Two new additional posts in the Outreach team.
  • Increased capacity for the Somewhere Safe to Stay programme and Supported Lettings team.
  • Temporary accommodation with additional health support for people leaving hospital.
  • New specialist ‘navigators’ who work to help people with a variety of support needs into accommodation and enable them to access other services.

Tackling homelessness remains high on the citywide agenda. At January’s City Gathering, reducing the number of families living in temporary accommodation was selected as one of the top three One City priorities for 2020.

Councillor Paul Smith, Cabinet Member for Housing, said: “It is very troubling to see the number of people recorded sleeping rough rise, despite all the hard work from organisations across the city.

“What makes it even worse is that 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.

“As with last year, we are working hard to get people off the streets and support homeless people in a number of ways, but due to due the impact of Welfare Reform, and the affordability of accommodation in the city, people are finding themselves on the streets quicker than we can find them support and suitable accommodation.

“We know that the only way to really address the problem is to provide access to more affordable housing, and we are doing everything to accelerate appropriate house building across Bristol.

“However, alongside that we need to focus on prevention and we need people to seek advice and support as early as they can, so, where possible, we can prevent people from becoming homeless in the first place.”

In line with the challenge nationally, Bristol has seen an increase of people sleeping rough over the past five years and the last quarterly counts have found an average of 117 sleeping rough on the street.

Gareth Mercer, Bristol Rough Sleeping Service Manager, said: “We are deeply saddened to see yet another rise in the number of people who are having to sleep rough across Bristol. Rough sleeping is dangerous and life threatening – no one should have to live this way.

“I am proud of our outreach team who work tirelessly day and night on the streets of Bristol, doing everything they can supporting people to find a route away from rough sleeping. However, we can only begin to solve this national crisis once the government commits to both the long-term funding of comprehensive homeless services and to building the homes that we desperately need to end homelessness.

“Emergency homelessness services in Bristol, such as our outreach team and St Anne’s winter shelter, are absolutely vital in helping people to make that difficult first step away from rough sleeping. We see people every day who are able to make positive changes because of these services.

“But, we know that long term recovery is dependent on having government funded homelessness services, integrated with physical and mental health support, to make sure that no one is forced to go back on the streets and instead can rebuild their lives in a stable and secure home.”

Think you or a friend or family member might be at risk of homelessness? It is vital to seek advice as soon as possible. It is much easier to get the help you need before you find yourself homeless. Visit https://www.bristol.gov.uk/homeless for more information.

Taking early action can avoid reaching crisis point. There is good advice and guidance available online: CAB, MA. There are also advice and support services available in Bristol: ACFA, ACORN and Relate.