HOW bad is homelessness in Darlington? Bad enough that the town’s MP saw fit to raise it in the House of Commons on Monday.

Jenny Chapman says Government figures show a rise to five rough sleepers in 2016/17 from none in 2010 and 12 families in temporary accommodation, compared to none in 2011.

But the most recent figures disclosed by Darlington’s council put the number of rough sleepers currently on the streets at zero.

Two days later, it emerged 1,202 people told the council they were homeless or at risk of becoming homeless over the past financial year.

And today we report a growing war of words over the issue with the town’s Conservative leader Cllr Heather Scott accusing Labour MP Ms Chapman of giving misleading statements. Ms Chapman, by way of reply, told her to take her head out of the sand.

There is always a place for a good old fashioned political ding-dong, and this one has helped to publicise what can be a forgotten issue. While Ms Chapman has been accused of making too much of the figures, they actually cannot be overstated. More than 1,200 people going to the council for help because they either are homeless or in fear of homelessness in a town the size of Darlington is an incredible number.

The reasons behind each individual case are no doubt complex, and support services are working flat out so people do not end up on the streets. But just because there aren’t rough sleepers around every corner, it doesn’t mean there isn’t a homelessness problem.