Figures released by the government today show that Bedford Borough has seen the tenth largest decrease in the number of people rough sleeping from 2018 – 2019.
The Rough Sleeper estimate is carried out by local authorities across the country on a nominated night every November. The November 2019 estimate (supported by a street count) showed 30 people sleeping rough in Bedford Borough. In 2017 this figure was 76, dropping to 51 in 2018.
The annual ‘snapshot’ reveals that the number of people sleeping rough fell by 9% in England in 2019.
The figure represents a second consecutive annual fall but is still up 141% since 2010.
“It’s great we have seen a reduction in the number of people sleeping rough,” said Mike Hyden of JustUs, an advocacy agency that works with homeless people in Bedford.
“However, those rough sleeping are very much the visible tip of the iceberg. Much more now needs to be done to help the hundreds and hundreds of homeless people, including hidden homeless people in the Borough.
“The focus now needs to be on finding meaningful long-term solutions, including building much more affordable housing.”
Bedford Borough Council today announced that it has secured just over £1million from the Government for 2020/21 to provide new and continued support services for those rough sleeping.
This funding ensures the future of the Somewhere Safe to Stay Hub for 2020/21, along with outreach support and accommodation.
It will also allow the Council, working with partners including the East London Foundation Trust, to provide specialist support for those with both substance use and mental health problems.
It also recognises that the majority of people now rough sleeping in Bedford Borough are ‘European Economic Area’ nationals, and provides funding for specialist outreach caseworkers for these individuals.
Local authorities usually cannot support this group as they are not eligible for statutory homelessness services, and councils are very restricted in what support they can give.
This change in Bedford, among a number of other local authorities, recognises that without support to help people onto a pathway back to independence it would be difficult to reduce rough sleeping figures further.
Mayor Dave Hodgson said, “As a Council and with our partners, I am very proud that we have been able to successfully get people out of the cycle of rough sleeping, providing support to help vulnerable individuals back into settled accommodation.
“Keeping people off of the streets is not just about picking people up once they have fallen, but working with people to help them stay in housing.
“In our latest budget we have a further invested £100,000 in homelessness prevention. This is on top of the rough sleeper initiatives funding from the Government.
Cllr Colleen Atkins, Portfolio Holder for Housing said “To have more than halved the number of people sleeping rough in just two years is a real achievement and I am delighted that we have been able to help vulnerable people in our Borough to get support and get off the streets.
“We continue to engage with people sleeping rough, and providing support where we can and where individuals are willing to accept it. Through the Somewhere Safe to Stay Hub, Clarence House, outreach support with SMART at Prebend Street, the Nightshelter and the Kings Arms Project, the Council works throughout the year to keep helping some of the most vulnerable in our society.”
To access an emergency bed, Bedford Borough Council encourages anyone that is sleeping rough to visit the Prebend Day Centre, speak to any of our outreach workers, or contact the Council’s Housing Options Team at any time on 01234 267422.
If anyone has concerns about someone they see sleeping rough, please let the outreach teams know via www.streetlink.org.uk