AN ‘ALARMING’ rise in rough sleepers in Rugby – among the highest in England – is due to a more accurate method of counting them, Rugby Borough Council (RBC) has said.
Figures released by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government showed Rugby recorded a 433 per cent rise – the third highest in the country – from 6 to 32 rough sleepers between Autumn 2017 and Autumn 2018.
The figures prompted a borough councillor to call for a ‘robust strategy’ to tackle the problem – while an RBC spokesman said the rise was down to a new way of counting rough sleepers which meant the 2018 figure was more accurate than in previous years.
Coun Tim Douglas said: “We need a robust strategy at local and national level to support individuals on the streets which tackles budgeting, health and well-being, work, mentoring and housing needs.”
A spokeswoman for Rugby homelessness charity Hope4 said: “Our statistics tell us that relationship breakdown, debt, the lack of affordable housing and addiction are among the difficulties faced by those sleeping on the streets.
“We work closely with Rugby Borough Council and other organisations to reduce the figures, but we would agree we need a strategy to tackle the issues.”
An RBC spokesman said rough sleepers were counted in 2018 based on their previous contact with the council, the police and homelessness charities – in contrast to previous years when officers would take a head count in areas known for rough sleeping.
RBC communities and homes spokeswoman Coun Emma Crane said the new method meant the council could get a clearer picture of rough sleeping and focus resources accordingly.
She said: “We’re determined to do all we can to tackle homelessness.
“A year ago the council launched the pilot Rugby Housing Pathway project which offers the street homeless the opportunity to live in self-contained accommodation while receiving help and support.”
She added £40,000 in this year’s council budget was assigned to employ an outreach officer to spearhead the Rugby Housing Pathway project, and £30,000 from the Government’s Regional Homeless Prevention Fund will double the project’s number of accommodation units from five to ten.
She said: “The project supports a number of other initiatives, including Preventing Homelessness, Improving Lives – a Warwickshire-wide project led by Rugby Borough Council which secured nearly £900,000 from the Government to support residents at risk of homelessness.”