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Report reveals 100pc increase in rough sleepers in Norfolk and Waveney in past five years

The number of rough sleepers in Norfolk and Waveney has increased by 100pc in the past five years, new figures show. Picture: PA.

The number of rough sleepers in Norfolk and Waveney has increased by 100pc in the past five years, new figures show. Picture: PA.

The number of rough sleepers in Norfolk and Waveney has increased by 100pc in the past five years, new figures show.

Information from the National Audit Office revealed that Norwich, King’s Lynn and West Norfolk, and Waveney saw the biggest rise since 2012.

But it has only been between 2015/16 and 2016/17 that the number of rough sleepers in those areas has dramatically increased.

In Norwich, the figure jumped from 13 to 34, while in King’s Lynn it increased from five to 42. Meanwhile, in Waveney, it went from six to 20.

According to the report, the main reasons for people becoming homeless in those areas was mostly due to housing issues and relationship breakdowns.

The figures echo the national picture, which has seen the number of rough sleepers across England almost double from 2,309 in 2012/13 to 4,134 in 2016/17.

Derek Player, general manager of St Martins Housing Trust, said: “The report is disturbing because it questions whether the government is properly evaluating the various initiatives that are designed to combat both single-person homelessness and family homelessness.

“With the official government street-sleeping count last November it was revealed there were over 4,000 people sleeping rough on one single night in England last November. That included the all-time high number of 34 for Norwich.”

In a statement, the Local Government Association said the increase in homelessness posed a “huge challenge” for councils.

It said local authorities were having to house the equivalent of an extra secondary school’s worth of homeless children in temporary accommodation every month.

Great Yarmouth, King’s Lynn and West Norfolk, and Broadland have some of the highest numbers of people placed in temporary accommodation in the county.

In 2016/17 Broadland reportedly had no rough sleepers in its district, but had 59 people in temporary accommodation.

Meanwhile, in the same year, Great Yarmouth had 50 in temporary accommodation and seven rough sleepers.

The report also found that local authority spending on homelessness had decreased.

In Norwich, more than £11.7m was spent on housing and homelessness services in 2009/10. It fell to £7.1m in 2015/16.

Council response

Norwich City Council said the outreach service team usually sees between five and 15 people “bedded down”, with the highest number recorded at 21.

A spokesman for the council said the figure of 34 was “extremely” unusual.

However, the spokesman added that the numbers being seen out on a regular basis are frequently higher than at the same time last year.

The council said it has prevented more than 600 households from experiencing homelessness through the work it carries out.

Meanwhile, Adrian Lawrence, west Norfolk borough council cabinet member for housing and community, said: “Unfortunately, resources across these sectors are tight and demand has been increasing. Indeed some of the services that could make a difference have gone.

“We do everything we canto get people into accommodation, but it is not simply a matter of housing supply.”

St Martins Housing Trust

Derek Player, from St Martins Housing Trust, said the homeless charity had “steadily” regained control of the rough sleeper situation in Norwich.

He added: “Although we still cannot offer a place to all rough sleepers who need one every night, the numbers in the city have reduced throughout the year.

“When the official count comes around again,and we never know beforehand when that is going to be, we are hopeful that the situation in Norwich will be improved as a result of our efforts at St Martins.

Every night spent rough sleeping for someone is a personal disaster and our aim is to ensure no one spends a second night out in the cold.”

Mr Player said the report also highlighted the link between cuts in public services and homelessness.

“The bottom line, of course, is the very low number of new homes being built in the social sector at rents that people can afford – even if they are benefit dependent.”

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