Number of rough sleepers falls in central London

The number of people sleeping rough in central London has fallen to 212, according to an independent count by homeless charity the Simon Community.

The previous count conducted in November last year found 263 rough sleepers. However, the figure is still significantly up on April 2008 when just 165 were found.

There were 158 rough sleepers discovered in Westminster, down from 194 last November, and 24 in the City of London.

‘Inadequate’ provision

A Simon Community spokesperson said that the lack of a safety net for arrivals from eastern Europe had “swelled” the number of street homeless. He added: “The numbers reflect the fact that there is still inadequate provision for rough sleepers, despite government protestations to the contrary.”

The charity reiterated that their counts show consistently higher levels of rough sleeping than the government’s official statistics despite the fact that they are conducted in the same way. In addition the counts do not include people who sleep in parks, disused building and places inaccessible to those conducting the count.

Police scheme

It also suggested that the figures had been affected by a controversial police tactic to move homeless people on from Camden, Westminster and the City by waking rough sleepers up in the middle of the night and washing down the doorway or place where they had bedded down.

The scheme, known as Operation Poncho, was devised in conjunction with homeless charity Broadway in an attempt to force homeless people to confront their situation and seek help. Critics claim the tactic merely disperses rough sleepers and distances vulnerable people from services.

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