THE number of homeless people sleeping rough on the streets has risen to its highest number in a decade.
Crisis, a homeless charity, recorded a 23% rise in rough sleeping over the past year across the whole of the UK.
Another homeless charity, Shelter, revealed that 75,000 children will wake up this Christmas without a home.
Duncan Shrubsole, policy director at Crisis, said: “From 1997 to 2010 the numbers were going down quite significantly but they have been increasing since then.
“We are not quite back to the really bad old days but we are heading that way. It is the worst for 10 years.”
Crisis is among a number of other charities and voluntary organisations that run outreach services and Christmas drop-in centres for the homeless during the festive period.
Volunteers have noticed an alarming number in the amount of rough sleepers coming to ask for help.
Mr Shrubsole said: “The number of people sleeping rough is definitely up. It will vary in different area but everybody is saying the area they are working, the numbers are higher.
“The new number won’t come out until February but the outreach teams are saying they are seeing more people.”
Mr Shrubsole added: “I was speaking to people a couple of days ago, who years ago would never have become homeless.
“They became homeless because their jobs came to an end and they weren’t able to find another quickly enough and money ran out, so they lost the ability to stay where they were living.
“The economy, the lack of affordable housing, as well as the Government’s cuts to housing benefit which used to help you hold out if you had a drop in income have contributed.
“You cannot get the benefits to pay for housing.”
A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pension said: “There was a need for reform of housing benefit, spending had almost doubled.
“It is not a case of cutting it but it stops that massive rise.
“It still keeps that safety net, people can claim up to £21,000 a year for larger properties.”
A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said: “This country has one of the strongest safety nets against homelessness and levels are at less than half those seen under the previous Government but we are not complacent.
“To ensure families have a roof over their heads we have protected £400 funding to tackle homelessness.
“On top of that we provided an additional £70million last year to help prevent and tackle homelessness.”
He added: “Rough sleeping has no place in the 21st Century and while numbers are low, every rough sleeper is one too many.
“That’s why we are supporting the national roll-out of the No Second Night Out Initiative.
“In addition local authorities should have plans in place to protect rough sleepers during severe cold weather.”