Homelessness figures queried

Homelessness charities have warned ministers against
complacency, after the government revealed that the number of
people sleeping rough has fallen by well over half over three

The rough sleepers unit’s progress report on the government’s
strategy to reduce street sleeping estimates there are around 700
people sleeping rough in England, compared with 1,850 in 1998. The
government’s target is to reduce the number of rough sleepers by at
least two thirds by 2002.

But homelessness charities have warned that while people are
leaving the streets, a big flow of new rough sleepers continues. In
the first four months of this year, Shelter helped 1,320 people in
London who had experienced street homelessness.

“Evidence suggests that the total number of people experiencing
street homelessness in a year is far greater than the numbers found
at the time of a count,” a coalition of homelessness groups,
including Shelter, Crisis and Centrepoint, said in a statement.

Ceri Sheppard, acting director of Homelessness Network, said
resources needed to be in place to deal with the flow of newly
homeless people.

“This needs co-ordination of government policy, particularly on
housing, drugs, crime, health, community care, prison and army
discharge policy and support for vulnerable people,” she said.

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