Thanet council says it provided ‘additional contextual information” alongside its last rough sleeper spot count in response to reports that local authorities have been accused of “deliberately hiding the scale of the rough sleeping crisis.”
A report in The Guardian says more than 30 councils, including Thanet, switched from submitting an estimate to carrying a one night street count in November 2018.
The count figures nationally produced a 2% drop in the number of people sleeping on the streets in 2018
For Thanet the number of people verified as sleeping rough fell by 50 per cent from 46 in 2017, to 23 in 2018.
The figures followed a count which took place between 4am and 7:30am on November 22.
The verified rough sleeper count only included people bedding down on the street (in parks, churchyards etc) on one given night.
People using the Thanet Winter Shelter were not included– that night there were 14 guests at the shelter.
Dying on our streets
Shockingly data released today (February 25) by the Office for National Statistics shows there have been 7 identified deaths of people who were sleeping rough in Thanet between 2013 and 2017. Estimates, meaning those who died on the street but may not have been registered as homeless, for the same period show eight deaths.
In Canterbury there were 16 deaths of people registered as sleeping rough for the same period, with the estimate standing at 20.
For Dover three deaths were recorded and the estimated figure was the same. For Folkestone four deaths were recorded in both categories.
There were an estimated 597 deaths of homeless people in England and Wales in 2017, a figure that has increased by 24% over the last five years.
Men made up 84% of deaths and the mean age was 44 years for men and 42 years for women. Over half of all deaths of homeless people in 2017 were due to drug poisoning, liver disease or suicide; drug poisoning alone made up 32% of the total.
The method used for last year’s rough sleeper count has been criticised as not showing the reality of street homelessness. Estimates are generally agreed by rough sleeper agencies, such as Porchlight as well as TDC, whereas the spot counts are just a snap shot of one night.
Thanet council said: “Ministry for Housing guidance dictates that where there is a significant change in the number, population or location of people sleeping rough in a local area, councils should consider conducting a street count.
“TDC historically conducted its annual rough sleeping figures via an estimate, but by October 2018, following funding from the Government’s Rough Sleeping Initiative, 34 people had been found accommodation, which constitutes a significant change. On this basis, TDC duly conducted a street count in November 2018.
“The council provided additional contextual information to the Government about the number of people that had been accommodated in temporary accommodation or who were staying at the Winter Shelter at the time of the count.
“As street counts only record people found bedding down outside on the night of the count, they are only part of the picture. Counts are however, a useful tool to assess trends in the numbers of rough sleepers over time.
“At any one time there will also be other people without settled accommodation who are not bedded down outside.
“The data showed a larger group of people who, although temporarily accommodated, still required ongoing support to find, and keep a permanent home.
“The council is confident the reported number accurately reflected the number of people sleeping rough locally and that there had been a genuine reduction in this figure.”
Thanet council said the reduction was due to the introduction of the RISE team – Rough sleeper Intervention, Support and Empowerment – which has three outreach workers and a dedicated worker for mental health and another for drug and alcohol addiction.
While the number was lower than previous years, council housing boss Bob Porter acknowledged that homelessness on the isle seemed more visible with a number of people living in tents in churchyards, parks and beaches.
Sleeping rough on the streets in Thanet
|Year||Number of persons confirmed as sleeping rough in Thanet (TDC count)|