The results of the snap shot of rough sleeping across the country have just been published by government. They show a very worrying trend upwards across the country with a 26% rise. This follows very rapid falls over the previous years due to covid related interventions and is still way below the peak in 2017.
This national picture is reflected here in Preston with our single night figure rising from 6 to 13 when the count was carried out in November 2022. Over previous years we had been pleased to see numbers drop from a peak of 23 to just 6 in 2021. It seems that we are entering a homeless crisis.
It will be clear to everyone who goes into the city will have seen the growing number of people on the street it is heartbreaking.
So what’s changed to bring about this really worrying rise?
Over the past few years and in addition to the Rough Sleepers Initiative funding there have been a number of different initiatives to protect rough sleepers from the effects of the covid pandemic.” Everybody In” was the initial response bringing 30 plus people in over one weekend followed by a further intervention last year which funded B&B places for 40 plus individuals. Sadly this funding has all ended and the options available in the city are now limited to the 14 bed RSI funded scheme.
At the same time issues of affordability has hit people hard, cost of living, and the fact that local housing benefit rates have not risen to keep pace with rising housing costs for a number of years have had an impact. We have seen many more people evicted for owing service charges payable in shared properties reflecting low income levels.
In Preston The Foxton Centre runs the RSI funded 14 bed emergency project for rough sleepers. Since it opened at the end of June 2022 it has had a 97% occupancy rate basically its full all the time. This means there is little space for people currently on the streets. An added complication for us is that there are four people living there who have been in for many months as suitable move on accommodation is not available for them as they have particular support needs.
Ideally we would like to see an additional and properly funded emergency scheme guaranteeing a bed for the night plus more move on accommodation to free up the existing 14 bed scheme similar to the approach adopted under covid.
Only a long term commitment from government will ensure that rough sleeping can be eradicated from our streets in Preston and across the country in line with the thinking in the Rough Sleeping Strategy adopted in 2018. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1102469/Rough-Sleeping-Strategy_2018.pdf
The Foxton Centre run a number of projects individually and with partners like Community Gateway Association, Calico, Progress / Key, MITEC and Hilldale Housing Association which provide accommodation and support to over 100 people each night in the city. We are also grateful for the support of the city council who are the leader of the “Rough Sleepers Initiative” in the city which has brought new resources to rough sleepers here.
Our newly opened day centre focuses on support and prevention and we saw 145 people asking for help in its first month of operation with 381 attendances (Jan-Feb 2023) and will be vital in both supporting people still on the street and preventing other people from becoming homeless in the first place.