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‘Every night is a personal tragedy’ - rough sleeping figures drop in Norwich, but increase elsewhere in Norfolk

PUBLISHED: 10:03 31 January 2019 | UPDATED: 11:50 31 January 2019

The number of rough sleepers in Norwich has dropped, new figures show, but there have been small increases elsewhere in Norfolk. Photo: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

The number of rough sleepers in Norwich has dropped, new figures show, but there have been small increases elsewhere in Norfolk. Photo: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

The number of rough sleepers in Norwich has dropped, new figures show, though there have been small increases elsewhere around the county.

On Thursday, homelessness street count figures were released by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, as part of annual statistics across all local authorities in England.

The figures, collected last autumn, are either based on evidence-based estimates, or a street count which sees council officers venture out into their area to provide a snapshot on one night.

In Norwich, the number of rough sleepers counted on that night fell from 30 in 2017 to 21 last year, a 30pc decrease.

It brings the rough sleeping rate, calculated per 1,000 households, down from 0.47 in the city to 0.33, still above the England-wide figure of 0.20.

MORE: We don’t have resources to investigate all rough sleeper deaths, says council

There were increases in other parts of the county, though, including in Great Yarmouth, where the number of rough sleepers increased from three to 10 from 2017 to 2018, and its rate rising from 0.07 to 0.23.

In Waveney, the figure rose from eight to 14, from five to nine in north Norfolk, from one to three in south Norfolk and one to five in Breckland.

Broadland’s figure, of two, remained the same, while in King’s Lynn and west Norfolk the number dropped from nine to five, bringing its rough sleeping rate down to 0.08.

It is a marked decrease for the district, which in 2016 counted 42 rough sleepers.

In Norwich, the vast majority of those rough sleeping - 18 - were male, and all but three were UK nationals.

Dr Jan Sheldon, chief executive of St Martin's Housing Trust. Picture: St Martin'sDr Jan Sheldon, chief executive of St Martin's Housing Trust. Picture: St Martin's

Sixteen were aged 26 and over, with three aged under 25 and the age of two unknown.

Dr Jan Sheldon, chief executive of homelessness charity St Martins, said: “It is positive news that the number of rough sleepers in Norwich has reduced.

“There can be little doubt that this is a result of the hard work and commitment of our team, other local charities and local councils. “However, there is no room for complacency, the numbers remain too high.

“We need to remember that behind each statistic is a person who is in crisis and is likely to have a range of complex needs that require long term support.

MORE: ‘There is no easy solution’ - the human cost of rough sleeping in Norwich

“Rough sleeping is the strongest possible indicator that something has gone seriously wrong for the individual.”

The figures show a 10pc reduction in rough sleeping in the east of England, and 2pc in England.

But the national drop is only a fraction of the 165pc increase in rough sleeping across England and Wales since 2010.

Dr Sheldon said the count includes people sleeping, or about to bed down, in the open air, or places that are not designed for habitation, such as stairwells or cars.

The figures come after the launch of the Pathways service in Norwich, which was commissioned by Norwich City Council last year.

It sees seven organisations work together to combine their services.

Dr Sheldon said every night on the streets was a “personal tragedy” for someone, and the charity saw new people arrive on the streets every week.

She said the Pathways initiative was having a significant impact, and said the support of people who donate to the charity was vital.

Kevin Maguire, Norwich City Council’s cabinet member with responsibility for safe city environment, said: “The innovative Pathways service is proving that a multi-agency, solution based approach to the complex issues surrounding rough sleeping is helping people into accommodation.

“While we would rather see nobody sleeping on our streets, it is encouraging to see the significant reduction in this year’s number.

“Vulnerable people are most affected by central government cuts to funding and services, and tackling issues such as rough sleeping needs collaboration between all organisations involved at a national and local level.”

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