Charity produces evidence to cast doubt over rough sleeper count

A homelessness charity has produced evidence to cast doubt over
the official government figures for people sleeping rough,
writes David Callaghan.

A count of rough sleepers in Leeds carried out last week by
Leeds Simon Community found five times more than the rough sleepers
unit count conducted in November.

The charity’s workers discovered 40 people sleeping outside or
in derelict buildings. This contrasts sharply with a Leeds council
count on behalf of the rough sleepers unit last year, which
produced a total of only eight.

Louise Casey, who is head of the rough sleepers unit, claimed
the national figure for rough sleepers has been cut by 70 per cent
since the government came to power in 1997.

Two local government professionals involved in the official
counts, who responded to the
online discussion forum Have your say, supported Casey’s
assertion by vouching for the validity of the official counts in
London and York.

But homelessness campaigners have disputed the figures,
especially in Brighton and Birmingham where the official totals
were only six and two respectively.

Jon Davis, project co-ordinator of the Leeds Simon Community,
said the charity used the same criteria as the rough sleepers unit
to determine whether a person was genuinely living on the

People found in shop doorways were not counted, for example,
because it is believed some return home in the early hours after

“The Simon Community carried out the count to provide accurate
information about the extent of the problem of rough sleeping,” he

“The figures show that much more needs to be done to alleviate
the situation.”

A Leeds council spokesperson said: “We feel the numbers quoted
are higher than the we would have expected, and may not be totally
reflective of the situation in Leeds.

“When we receive the data from this latest survey we will be
investigating further,” she said.

The rough sleepers unit has not claimed the problem of rough
sleeping is solved, a spokesperson said.

She said the count in Leeds was done in conjunction with Shelter
and the figure has remained at a “steady eight”.

“We would like to know more about the methodology the Simon
Community used for their count,” she said.




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