Fewer people sleeping rough in Norwich - but numbers rise in rest of Norfolk
PUBLISHED: 08:27 28 February 2020 | UPDATED: 13:58 28 February 2020
Archant Norfolk 2018
The number of rough sleepers on Norfolk’s streets has increased by a quarter in the county, but is declining in Norwich.
Government figures released on Thursday show the number of people estimated to be sleeping rough on a single night in Norfolk has gone up from 55 in 2018 to 69 last year.
But homeless charity Crisis said the figures were not a true reflection of reality as they only showed one night.
The annual rough sleeper count, which is carried out by local authorities every autumn, reveal there were 18 homeless people on the streets in Norwich last year.
This has gone down from 21 in 2018 and 34 the year before, according to statistics from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.
Norwich homeless charity St Martins Housing Trust praised the Pathways initiative, a partnership of seven organisations to help people sleeping on the streets to get accommodation and support.
Pathways was launched in July 2018 and is commissioned by Norwich City Council through its rough sleeping strategy.
Charity chief executive Jan Sheldon said: "Our Pathways team have been getting people off the street and into accommodation and moving through to hostels and a tenancy in a permanent home."
But she added: "It is still 18 people too many."
The charity also launched its 'street break' initiative in 2018, which aims to give respite to rough sleepers during the winter months. "The team have used a creative approach," Dr Sheldon said. "When there are no hostel space then people can be taken to bed and breakfasts and hotels and supported on that basis."
Elsewhere, the biggest increase was seen in Breckland where the figure has tripled from five in 2018 to 16 the following year.
A Breckland council spokesman said a new rough sleeper team was created last year to tackle the problem.
He said: "This is a dedicated resource supporting rough sleepers identified in the district which provides intensive support where requested to help rough sleepers find sustainable long-term accommodation, signposting to supporting agencies for any health issues and engage with the necessary services to prevent a return to rough sleeping."
Elsewhere, the snapshot estimate doubled in Great Yarmouth, from 10 in 2018 to 21 last year.
A Great Yarmouth Council spokesman said it will benefit from the government's new rough sleeping initiative, which will give Norfolk £1.4m to tackle homelessness.
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He said the money will fund a new rough sleeper co-ordinator post.
Meanwhile, West Norfolk and Broadland councils saw a decrease last year, with estimated figures of three and one respectively.
North Norfolk council had a slight increase of 10 compared to nine in 2018.
A spokesman from North Norfolk council said: "Our work shows we have between six to 12 people sleeping rough within the district at any one time.
"We have recently successfully bid for funding from government to provide a facility to help these people get off the streets in the short term and further help so they can gain access to long term accommodation."
But the one-night snapshot figures are much lower than the numbers obtained by the BBC through a Freedom of Information request, which show Norfolk councils helped 125 rough sleepers last year.
That number, however, could be much higher, as it does not include figures from Norwich and West Norfolk councils.
While the snapshot figure was zero in South Norfolk, the BBC found the council had helped 24 individual rough sleepers between August and December last year.
A South Norfolk and Broadland council spokesman said they are required to carry out bi-monthly rough sleeper counts after successfully bidding for funding from the government's Rough Sleeping Initiative.
Jon Sparkes, chief executive of homeless charity Crisis, said: "We still do not have a clear picture of how many people are forced to sleep on our streets throughout the year.
"While the current government statistics on rough sleeping are a useful snapshot, this cannot hope to accurately reflect the real scale of the problem or what is working to tackle it."
The figures come a day after the government announced extra funding of £236m to get rough sleepers off the streets.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the funding would go towards providing accommodation for up to 6,000 rough sleepers across the UK through a similar model to Housing First - which has already been trialled in Norwich.
The Housing First model, which was developed in the US, sees homeless people being given a home regardless of whether they are still abusing drink or drugs.
St Martins Housing Trust, which is leading the initiative in Norwich, said it has been rolled out on a small scale but has so far helped eight people in the city.
Dr Sheldon said: "It is going well and we want to expand it."
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