The number of rough sleepers has increased by 200 per cent in one North East town and 46 per cent across the region overall as charities warn the rising figures are down to "government failure".

The data, released by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) on Friday (March 1) reveal that 89 people in total are sleeping rough in the region compared to 67 in 2019 based on an annual snapshot of one autumn night in 2023.

In Middlesbrough, the number of rough sleepers has increased from 6 to 18 - a rise of 200 per cent. In Newcastle, an increase of 86 per cent from 14 to 26 has been noted.

Every region in England saw an increase in rough sleeping since 2022, with the largest rises recorded in Yorkshire and Humber (59 per cent), the North West (49 per cent) and the North East (46 per cent).

Tracy Guy, Newcastle Service Lead at Shelter reacted to the figures with concern and has urged the government to put an end to homelessness after they pledged to do so before the next general election.

She said: “Nobody should have to face the trauma of sleeping on the streets but with the escalating housing emergency this is the reality for too many people in the North East. 

“Decades of successive government failure to build enough genuinely affordable social homes has left people struggling to find a home while private rents are soaring. When people can’t afford anywhere to live, homelessness becomes inevitable and sadly some people are being forced to spend their nights freezing on street corners or in a flimsy tent. 

“Ignoring a crisis of this magnitude cannot continue. Everyone at risk of street homelessness should have access to suitable emergency accommodation.

“But the only lasting solution to end homelessness in the North East and across the country is for the government and all political parties to commit to building social homes with rents tied to local incomes.” 

Campbell Robb, chief executive of the charity Nacro, added that "this should not be happening" and also backed calls upon the government to end rough sleeping.

“Today’s statistics show thousands of people are sleeping rough on our streets, a tragedy for those individuals whose lives have taken a terrible turn," he said.

“To truly reduce the number of people rough sleeping the Government needs to do more to break the link between rough sleeping and the criminal justice system.

“A third of rough sleepers have been in prison, despite the importance of stable housing in reducing reoffending. Where there are predictable routes into homelessness, like leaving prison, we need to ensure that everything possible is done to help people find and keep a home for the long term.”

Nationally, rough sleeping grew by 27 per cent. There were 3,898 rough sleepers on a single night in autumn 2023, up from 3,069 in 2022.

The Northern Echo: Data for rough sleeping in the UK from autumn 2023.Data for rough sleeping in the UK from autumn 2023. (Image: PA)

Matt Downie, chief executive of homelessness charity Crisis, said: “The scale of rough sleeping is now a source of national shame.

“It is a sign of extreme inequality and must prompt a rethink at the highest levels of Government.”

“To bring these numbers down, we urgently need the Westminster Government to put long-term funding into the proven solutions we know help people to leave the streets behind, such as Housing First.”

“But crucially, we also need to see a complete change in approach and a commitment to build the levels of social housing we need every year,” he added.

The Government says it is spending an “unprecedented” £2.4 billion to help rough sleepers and those at risk of homelessness.


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A Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities spokesperson told the PA news agency: “Whilst we have made good progress and rough sleeping remains below pre-pandemic levels, there is more work to be done to meet our ambition to end it entirely and we will continue to work with local authorities to help people off the streets for good.

“Temporary accommodation is a vital safety net to make sure families are not left without a roof over their heads, but councils must make sure it is suitable for families.”

An expert group last year predicted the Government will not meet its target to end rough sleeping by the end of this Parliament, which was a 2019 manifesto commitment.