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Number of rough sleepers in Birmingham up 50% in one year

Homeless person Photo: PA

The number of people sleeping rough in Birmingham has hit record levels after rising 50% in one year.

One charity has described the rise as an ‘appalling blot’ on the city’s reputation.

Official figures released by the Department for Communities and Local Government revealed 55 people were sleeping rough on the city’s streets on a single night last November.

That was up from the 36 recorded in 2015 and six times the nine people counted in 2010. Across the seven West Midlands metropolitan councils the total number of rough sleepers was 132.

55
Number of people sleeping rough on the city’s streets on a single night last November
36
Number of people sleeping rough on the city’s streets on a single night in 2015

These latest figures are an appalling blot on Birmingham’s reputation, but the reasons for them are not hard to see.

Services to rough sleepers have been cut back, benefit entitlements have been reduced, hostels are closing or being forced to restrict the type of people they can help.

We have seen the tragic consequences of these changes before Christmas, and these figures merely reinforce the urgency of the situation. When people are literally dying on our streets it cannot be right for the council to divert money intended for the most vulnerable in our community to other services.

– Alan Fraser, Birmingham YMCA

The official count was carried out by councillors, council officers and charity worker. However, the figures are thought to underestimate actual numbers – particularly missing people sleeping in cars, sheds and derelict buildings.

Credit: PA

Birmingham City Council says it is currently reviewing its homelessness policy and that the backbench housing scrutiny committee is conducting an enquiry into rough sleeping.

Despite our considerable financial pressures, we commission a wide range of services to support rough sleepers and those facing homelessness – whether young people, victims of domestic abuse, former offenders or entrenched rough sleepers.

– Birmingham City Council's ambassador for homelessness Sharon Thompson