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Britain Doesn’t Have Tens Of Thousands Of Rough Sleepers, That’s A Lie

There are indeed people in Britain who are homeless. There are people who sleep rough. There are those in shelters, in bed and breakfast accommodation, sofa surfing and all the rest. However, there’s a deliberate manipulation of the statistics that goes on here. We get told of half a million and more “homeless” and that’s the number of those not in housing as good as those doing the counting think the housing should be. Near all of these are still under a roof at night. Then there’re those who sleep rough. Actually camp out in the doorways and so on. This is a very different problem, one that’s not really about housing at all.

But then as I say, we get deliberate manipulation of the numbers. Such manipulation as to amount to lying:

EXCLUSIVE: Channel 4’s Dispatches programme, to be aired on Monday night, will reveal tens of thousands of people sleeping rough

Not true, just not true at all.

Channel 4’s Dispatches programme, to be aired on Monday night, will reveal tens of thousands of people – some working for the nation’s most recognisable high street brands – are sleeping rough because they cannot afford a roof over their heads.


Here are the official numbers of rough sleepers:

Local authorities’ counts and estimates show that 4,751 people slept rough in England on a
snapshot night in autumn 2017. This is up 617 (15%) from the autumn 2016 total of 4,134.

Note that even The Guardian agrees with this number:

Rough sleeping in England has increased for the seventh consecutive year, official figures show, and charities say even this steep rise fails to capture the true level of street homelessness.

Statistics published by the government on Thursday reveal that an estimated 4,751 people bedded down outside overnight in 2017, up 15%…

To explain the number cascade. There’s some number – call it a million, 600,000, whatever you like – of people in either sub-standard housing or at risk of becoming homeless. This includes such things as people coming to the end of a tenancy without the next one sorted as yet. The vast, vast, majority of these do get sorted. By that thing we all pay for to sort out such troubles, the welfare state. Sure, bed and breakfasts on the council budget aren’t ideal but they are indeed a method of making sure that the kiddies aren’t sleeping rough.

At the other end of our cascade we’ve those sleeping rough. Kipping in a doorway under a stinking blanket. That’s our 5,000 on any one night number, perhaps some 10,000 as the population that flow through this status over a year. This rough sleeping population divided into two major groups. Those passing through this status as transients. There are enough people out there helping that someone sleeping outside simply because they’ve nowhere else to sleep get sorted in a few days. Those who don’t are the deeply, deeply unlucky and are likely, as an annual number, to be able to fit into a single National Express coach. Of the regular rough sleepers some 80% (this number from memory but about right) have one or more, possibly all three, of significant drug or alcohol addictions, or metal health problems. They’re more about closing the looney bins than anything to do with the housing market. Quite a number of them have been sorted out, like our transients, with housing and then left or lost it again as a result of those problems.

The claim that tens of thousands are sleeping rough is a manipulation of these numbers to the point of lying. Shame on Dispatches for doing so.

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2 years ago

According to the Big Issue, the homeless now includes the ‘vulnerably housed’. Homeless charities rely on inflating the figures to keep the funding gravy train on the tracks.

2 years ago

Why, everyone is “at risk of becoming homeless” if he stops paying rent or taxes. By the way, millions are “affected by the homelessness crisis.” Thanks for again noting how advocates exaggerate, including by lumping together dissimilar phenomena, and by counting people to whose “need” we have already ministered. But we cannot aid the “homeless” by rulebook, without increasing the value of being in that situation.

2 years ago

I was homeless three times at university because my summer tenancy ended on 31st August but my Autumn tenancy didn’t start until 15th September, I bunked up on a settee one year, got space at former digs another year where the landlasy’s children shared for two weeks. Where do I get my Victim Card?

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