Local authorities are encouraged to carry out counts and estimates of rough sleepers in their area between the beginning of October and end of November using intelligence from local agencies such as outreach workers, the police and the voluntary sector etc. In some cities, monitoring is caried out by specific services, such as Brighton and Stoke-on-Trent's Rough Sleepers unit, who assess all "rough sleepers".
National figures for counts and estimates are published by the Government's Department for Communities and Local Government (Excel file, includes macros) and indicate in our area that in 2010, the figure for the Lancaster district was two and in 2011, four.
Across the North West, some 100 people were assesed as being "rough sleepers" in Autumn 2010.
But getting acurate figures is not easy and becasue of this, the CLG recently overhauled the rough sleeping count methodology to ensure that there is a complete picture of rough sleeping across the country.
New estimates show that the number of rough sleepers could be as high as 1,247 because, for the first time, all councils have been asked to submit estimates of the number of people sleeping rough on the streets in their area.
In contrast, the total number of people found rough sleeping by local authority street counts was 464 in 2009.
As a member of the homelessness forum, Lancaster City Council currently works in partnership with the voluntary sector and other agencies to assess, prevent and provide an outreach service for rough sleeping in the Lancaster district.
These include the Lancaster and District Homeless Action Service, who have a day centre in Edward Street and support the roofless and those in housing poverty. (LDHAS also provide food daily and shower and laundry facilities, provided by a small number of staff and many dedicated volunteers).
No Second Night Out
However, following the introduction of a Government backed cheme - 'No Second Night Out' which has already been piloted in London – the Government now intends to roll out this initiative across all regions and steps are currently being taken to adopt the NSNO model across Lancashire.
19 Communities across England have already been granted up to £250k each to adopt the No Second Night Out – an initiative that aims to ensure that anyone who ends up on the streets gets helped quickly so they don’t spend a second night out.
The grants are part of an £8m pot being awarded by the Homelessness Transition Fund to 41 projects that aim to help ensure that no one lives on our streets.
The £20m independent Fund was set up to help support the national rough sleeping strategy Vision to end rough sleeping: No Second Night Out nationwide.
"Lancaster City Council is currently working with other authorities in Lancashire and partners to develop a collective approach to NSNO and a Lancashire-wide action plan is currently being developed," a spokeperson told virtual-lancaster.
"This will establish the role of each organisation in jointly responding to rough sleeping across Lancashire with the aim of putting an end to any one person spending a second night on the street.
"The outcome of this will provide each district with a bespoke action plan which will tackle the individual needs of each district."
Rough Sleepers on the rise?
The adoption of NSNO will be wecomed by homlessness campaigners amid concerns that the number of rough sleepers could be set to rise, the result of the economic downturn and, perhaps, changes in housing benefits, especially for younger people.
Speaking to the national Guardian last October, Jenny Edwards who heads up Homeless Link, the organisation that created th4e NSNO project, describe it as an "early warning system" for homelessness. The signals she is getting from the umbrella organisation's 500 members, which run homeless services across England, are that youth homelessness is on the rise.
"Tensions in families who are coming under economic pressures, parents being more called to account for the behaviour of their older children, and the withdrawal of the education maintenance allowance are some of the reasons why teenagers could be leaving home in greater numbers with nowhere to go," she says.
Housing Minister Grant Shapps acknowledged last year that factors like relationship breakdown can lead to sudden homelessness, but said that the Government is committed to its the No Second Night Out policy. The Minister slept rough himself in 2007 in order to highlight the plight of rough sleepers and recalling his night on the street he said "In a civilised society no one should have to sleep on the pavement."
Tackling the problem
Since April last year, NSNO has been running as a pilot project in inner London, delivering a 24/7 emergency service for rough sleepers, funded by the mayor and the government. London boroughs' own homelessness outreach teams or the public call an emergency number for a dedicated street rescue service, which will remove a newly identified rough sleeper and take them to a centre where they are offered an alternative to homelessness. Those offers range from accommodation to being reconnected with the area or country they have come from, or being put in touch with a service such as drugs rehabilitation.
In Liverpool, which has already begin to roll out NSNO, councillors ae enthusiastic about the scheme.
"This initiative is about teaming up with our partners and putting services in place to ensure nobody has reason to spend a second night out," says Coun Ian Maher, Sefton Council's Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Housing.
"Every night, someone sleeps rough for the first time," says Mark McPherson, Director of Practice and Regions at Homeless Link. "We know that the longer they stay out, the worse their problems can get and the harder they can be to overcome. A life on the streets can lead to substance misuse, crime and serious physical or mental health problems.
"No Second Night Out is a simple standard that means putting the right services in place so no one spends more than a single night on the streets. The Liverpool Region is leading the way on this commitment outside of London.
Posters advertising the No Second Night Out phone number will appear at Livrpool bus stops, rail stations and in areas where people have been known to sleep rough.
• Seen someone who you suspect is sleeping rough?
Call one of the 24-hour hotlines to get them urgent help
• Read the interview with Jenny Edwards
• Homeless: Facts and Figures