Report by James Franklin
Friday, March 4, 2011
GOVERNMENT figures estimating that North Somerset has two homeless people in the entire district have been described as ‘misleading’by local experts.
The new statistics, released this week by the Department for Communities and Local Government, are designed to paint a picture of homelessness across the UK.
North Somerset data shows just two people are estimated to be rough sleepers - leading homeless charities and campaigners to question whether the count was thorough enough.
Jon Codd, organiser of the annual Comfort at Christmas shelter which welcomes many homeless people, thinks the estimates may prove to be deceptive.
He said: “The fact that the report says there are two people sleeping rough in the whole of North Somerset would seem to be a little misleading.
“What’s astonishing is that these figures are mainly estimates. Of the 1,768 (UK homeless people) stated in the report, only 407 were counted.”
Mr Codd believes that not only are the figures misleading, they also mask the larger issue of homeless people, who are being ‘shunted from pillar to post’.
He continued: “There are a lot of people sofa surfing, moving from one mate’s flat or bedsit to another; B&B accommodation; non-close family - all of these are not homes.
“If the figures for these people were counted the whole country would be astounded.”
The figures were released after changes were made in the way numbers of rough sleepers were counted, with local authorities now responsible for carrying out an estimate.
Duncan Shrubsole, a spokesman for homeless charity Crisis, says councils need to be more thorough.
He said: “While these figures are encouraging in the context of last year’s ones before the method was changed, they are only ever an estimate or snapshot from the authorities.
“We would urge authorities to be more active and look at the wide range of places where homeless people might be.
“While it is good to see the figures picking up more of the people living what can be an awful existence out on the streets, authorities should look harder as this method simply cannot find all of the people who might be sleeping rough.”
A spokesman for North Somerset Council said: “We conducted a multi-agency street count in May 2008 and found no rough sleepers at all. Our officers were walking the streets at 2am looking in bins and sheds but didn’t find anyone at all. Not even in the park.
“Historically we don’t have high numbers of rough sleepers, summertime sees a slight increase but this is mainly people passing through the district. We occasionally hear of people sleeping in the woods as well but these are generally known to us and refuse assistance.”