1. ITV Report

Plymouth homelessness charity calls for action on rough sleeping amid 'highest figures in years'

The Government has promised to end rough sleeping by 2027 Photo: ITV News

The boss of a Plymouth homelessness charity says the number of people asking for help in the city is higher than ever before.

Figures seen by ITV Westcountry show almost 200 people visited the Shekinah Mission's drop-in centre last month - a rate of around 50 per day.

Cuts to welfare, the introduction of Universal Credit and problems with the justice system are being blamed for the spike - but the Government says it remains committed to ending rough sleeping in the next few years.

Nikki and Mark have been sleeping rough in Plymouth for five months Credit: ITV News

I used to work for Tesco. I never expected myself to end up on the streets. I've always had somewhere to live. But I have no family to fall on, so here I am. It's cold, it can be wet, windy, it's not nice. It isn't nice, I wouldn't recommend it to anybody. But we've just got to get on with it, there's nothing else we can do.

– Nikki, rough sleeper

The Council say in some cases, despite offering help, some who live on the streets choose not to accept - and will not engage.

We work closely with a number of agencies to reduce and prevent homelessness through housing advice, hostel and shelter provision, tenancy support, outreach services and supported housing. Unfortunately, despite all the support on offer some people decide they do not want to engage with us.

This couple have been seen by Plymouth Access to Housing (PATH) daily since November and have consistently declined the offer of winter provision and hostel placements. Their accommodation plan has been to go into a supported housing project since the start of the year, however they have not engaged at all with this process despite repeated attempts by PATH to support them.

– Plymouth City Council spokeswoman
Shekinah's drop-in centre is getting busier every month Credit: ITV News

The number of people visiting a vital drop-in centre in Plymouth is rising all the time.

In January 176 different people used the service. By February this was up to almost 200, an average of nearly 50 per day.

I've been doing this job for several years now and they are probably some of the highest figures that I've seen. That's not to say we're not working incredibly hard with partner agencies and Plymouth City Council to address this, the Government are chucking money at this. But unless they address some of the bigger system challenges - why are prisons still releasing people from prison directly on to the street, why are we still seeing people coming out of the care system directly on to the street - unless we ask those broader questions, I think it's going to be really difficult to see a reduction in the numbers we're seeing at the moment.

– John Hamblin, Shekinah
Shelter is expanding its Plymouth hub due to rising demand Credit: ITV News

There's a chronic shortage of social homes, caps and cuts have increased and had an impact on the people we work with, and the housing that we do have isn't covered by housing benefit so we're seeing a real increase in people presenting at court in dire emergencies, we're seeing a real increase in people presenting here with housing issues and who are facing bad housing and homelessness.

– Vicki Sampson, Shelter
The Government wants to end rough sleeping by 2027 Credit: ITV News

The Housing Minister, Heather Wheeler MP, says more than £1.3 million has been given to Plymouth this year to support those who are homeless.

She added that through the rough sleeping initiative, more than 50 extra beds have been provided for rough sleepers.

Rough sleeping figures are down for the first time in eight years as our £1.2 billion funding to tackle homelessness is working. We also have bold plans to end rough sleeping for good backed by £100 million.

– Heather Wheeler MP, Housing Minister

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