The number of people sleeping rough on the streets of Southend-on-Sea has risen to 16, figures for the annual rough sleeper count show.
The count took place in the early hours on a date during November 2022 and the figures give a snapshot of what is happening on that one night across the country.
The figure is an increase from 10 in 2021 and is in line with national figures, which show that numbers have risen for the first time since their peak in 2017. With a 26% increase across the country, and the bulk of this in the South East.
Southend’s figure was the third highest in the East of England region, following Cambridge (23) and Peterborough (24). Southend’s figures were also comparable with Chelmsford (15), Breckland (15) and Fenland (14). Of the 45 areas within the East of England region, Southend was one of only nine that carried out an actual physical count.
Cllr Ian Gilbert, cabinet member for economic recovery, regeneration and housing, said: “While it is disappointing that the number has risen and that we have an increase in the number of people sleeping rough on our streets, it does seem to be a problem that areas all over the UK are encountering.
"In the current economic and financial circumstances, it is proving even harder for those struggling to stay afloat, with mounting bills, stagnant wages and inflation. We are doing all we can. For those who are struggling, our web page to help with the cost-of-living crisis, lists the many places you can access support and help.
“In the past three years, the council has created around 70 additional council homes to ease homelessness and the council housing waiting list, and we also teamed up with Foundation 200 and the Salvation Army to provide six purpose-built homes for people who are moving on from homelessness.
“And we have to remember that at the core of all this are people; people who deserve a roof over their head and somewhere they feel safe.”
For the rough sleeper count in Southend-on-Sea, council workers team up with other organisations and volunteers to break into small groups and using previously gained intelligence from the rough sleeper outreach teams, they cover the whole City, physically counting the people they find.
Part of the count includes collecting data from the person, such as their age, nationality and gender. As with previous years, most of those spoken to were male, over 26 and from the UK.
In Southend, the teams carrying out the count, always make sure the person sleeping rough can access emergency accommodation for the night, directing them to local services such as HARP.
Vanessa Hemmings, chief executive of HARP, Southend’s homeless charity, said: “At HARP, we believe that everyone deserves a safe place to call home, and no one should be forced to sleep on the streets.
“16 people sleeping rough is 16 too many, and behind the numbers are real people who have fallen on hard times due to the cost-of-living crisis, low wages, high inflation, inadequate benefits and a chronic lack of affordable housing.
“We’ll continue to reach out to people sleeping rough, and do all we can to get as many people off the streets and into emergency accommodation as quickly as possible. We need the public to support this vital work, so if you’d like to get involved, head to HARP Southend to find out how you can help.”
If you see someone bedding down for the night, you can contact StreetLink, who will report their location and the information you give to a local outreach team. If you think the person is aged under 18, please call 999 and speak to the police.
If the person you are concerned about is in immediate danger or needs care, call 999.