Official estimates have suggested the number of people sleeping rough could be three times that recorded by councils.
The most recent count, which was published earlier this month, showed there were 440 rough sleepers in England, but additional official experimental estimates showed the figure could be as high as 1,247. This is because for the first time, all councils have been asked to submit estimates of the number of people sleeping rough on the streets in their area.
Previously, only councils which deemed themselves to have a problem had to do an official rough sleeping count, which was then submitted. This meant that only 70 councils conducted street counts leading to a total figure of 440 rough sleepers counted in England.
However, a further 256 councils have now provided estimates of the scale of the problem in their areas, many of them for the first time.
The new estimates follow calls from Housing Minister Grant Shapps for a review of how rough sleepers are counted and for a more comprehensive method of assessing the scale of the problem.
This is just one part of the government’s drive to ensure homelessness is given the attention it deserves. Mr Shapps is also bringing together Ministers in eight different government departments to work closely together to look at ways their respective policies and frontline services can help rough sleepers and those at risk stay off the streets.
Mr Shapps said: “At first glance today’s figures might seem like the number of people sleeping on the streets has trebled overnight – but the reality is that the situation on the ground has been much worse than the official rough sleeping count suggested for many years.
“That’s why I’ve announced plans for an overhaul of the way we assess rough sleeping and why I am asking councils and charities to help us come up with a more credible method of counting. We need a measure we can all rely on if we are to bring people in off the streets and give them a long-term future.
“The Coalition believes that good Government is transparent and open, even when it is difficult. By instigating a more accurate rough sleeping count Ministers believe they can shine a light on helping those most at need.”