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Huge spike in rough sleepers in the West Midlands

By Peter Madeley | Politics | Published:

The number of rough sleepers across the West Midlands has shot up by more than 40 per cent over the last year – the biggest rise in the country.

The number of rough sleepers has rocketed in the West Midlands over the last year

A total of 420 people were found sleeping rough on the region's streets on a single night in November, up 42 per cent from the same time in 2017 when 295 rough sleepers were found.

The Government figures have prompted warnings that the region was in the midst of a "moral emergency" over homelessness. In England the number of rough sleepers fell over the year from 4,751 to 4,667, a decrease of two per cent.

In the West Midlands the number of people sleeping rough has gone up by 130 per cent since 2010, while the spike over the last 12 months is by far the biggest in the country.

The figures have been published alongside new research by Birmingham MP Liam Byrne, which shows a four-fold rise in rough sleeping in Sandwell.

Across the West Midlands homeless children now make up more than a quarter of people in temporary accommodation, with the number having shot up by 175 per cent since the start of 2013.

The Labour MP said: "Homelessness across the West Midlands is a moral emergency. People are literally now dying on the streets yet the government says it won't end homelessness by 2027.

"That is simply not good enough and it's now clear we need a different plan for our region that'll actually make a difference now."

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'Deeply concerning'

West Midlands Mayor Andy Street described the figures as "deeply concerning" for the region, but insisted that measures were in place to reduce on the number of rough sleepers.

The Tory Mayor said "good work" was going on in each local authority through dedicated winter plans offering support to people sleeping on the streets, adding that further investment was being secured to help organisations involved in combatting homelessness.

“The most obvious intervention is the £10m Housing First pilot," he added. "There are now 41 rough sleepers housed through this programme. That’s 41 people who had been sleeping rough now in accommodation and receiving the intensive support to help them tackle their issues.

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“We were the first region to get people into accommodation in this programme and we expect to help 617 rough sleepers over the three years of the pilot.

“We hope that through Housing First and other preventative measures we will see a decline in rough sleeping on our streets by the time of the next annual count.”

Meanwhile new figures from Wolverhampton Council show the city has bucked the regional trend, with the rough sleeper count falling from 33 in April 2018 to 12 last month, a drop of 64 per cent.

The figures come just days after homeless man Kane Walker was found dead in Birmingham city centre.

Peter Madeley

By Peter Madeley
@P_Madeley_Star

Political Editor for the Express & Star. Responsible for local and national political stories, opinion, comment and analysis.

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