Rough sleeping in our city, by CEO Mark Grant

Recent figures announced on 31st January 2019 showed that after many years of increases the numbers sleeping on the streets are finally starting to go down, albeit by only 2%.

The picture across the country is varied, in Leicester we remained at 31, the same as we found in 2017 when Action Homeless led the Ending Street Homelessness Campaign.

The annual street counts, which generate these official numbers, have become the default way in which we compare figures and estimate the number of those who are sleeping rough. These numbers, although shocking, don’t however tell the true picture of just how many people are forced to sleep rough and the misery that entails.

Action Homeless housed over 400 people last year, most of whom will have found themselves with no other alternative but to sleep on the streets.

The reasons people find themselves sleeping on the streets are varied and complex and many have had chaotic lives from an early age, a survey we carried out last year showed that 40% of people had experienced some kind of trauma, including physical or emotional abuse and 20% had been in Local Authority care as children. What is the same for everyone is the devastating impact that rough sleeping has on their lives.

Over the winter months Action Homeless, along with other partners including the Local Authority, have been working hard to identify every rough sleeper in the City. We now have a comprehensive list and for each person found there are action plans to get him or her off the street.

I am often struck by the compassion of those who want to do something to help those they see sleeping out and social media is often used to galvanise support such as providing sleeping bags, or warm clothing. However, making the lives of those on the street more comfortable does not change their lives. Action Homeless believes that the best way to help someone sleeping rough is to get them a stable home. Only then they can they start to build a more promising future.

Supporting people to get themselves off the streets is often a challenging and not as simple as offering a bed, but lives cannot be changed while people are just surviving on the streets. The core of our work is to give people a home first and then offer tailored and consistent support that helps them to overcome any other issues they face.

That is why we divert all our resources in to creating as many new homes as we can, last year we brought 28 new homes into use, but the size of the problem means we need many more if we are going to give people a change to change their lives.

If you see someone sleeping rough in Leicester, please use Streetlink to record this so that the person can be found and offered appropriate help and support to get off the streets.

Mark Grant has worked in the homeless sector for over 25 years and joined Action Homeless as CEO in September 2013. Mark was involved from the start of the Rough Sleepers crisis in London in the early 1990’s. He has worked for various housing organisations and was Deputy CEO of Broadway, (now St Mungo’s) for 10 years, where he instigated the Real Lettings initiative, a social lettings agency to help secure homes for vulnerably housed and homeless people in the private sector.

Leicester is part of a European campaign to End Street Homelessness alongside other major cities including Valencia, Brussels, Glasgow and Budapest. In late 2017, Action Homeless led the most comprehensive audit of Leicester’s homelessness services for many years, speaking to 93 individuals with recent experience of street homelessness.