Rough sleeping more than doubles in Fenland
Rough sleeping in Fenland has more than doubled since 2010, official figures show.
Charity Crisis has urged the Government to do more to tackle the root causes of homelessness, calling the scale of rough sleeping a "damning reflection on our society".
The council estimated that 23 people were sleeping on the streets in Fenland during a spot check on one night last autumn, according to data from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG).
This is a 109 per cent increase from 2010, when an estimate put the number of rough sleepers at 11.
Charities think official figures are likely an underestimation, as many rough sleepers stay in hard-to-find places, and in Wisbech it has been widely reported there are between 40 and 50 people sleeping on the streets.
But even without that figure Fenlanad has one of the highest rates of homeless in the country.
The MHCLG compares different areas by working out the number of rough sleepers as a proportion of all households. Fenland has a rate of five rough sleepers for every 1,000 households.
Local authorities across England estimated there were 4,677 people sleeping rough on the same night last autumn. This was a slight drop from the previous year when 4,751 rough sleepers were counted - the first decrease for eight years.
However, the number of rough sleepers has increased significantly since 2010, when there were just 1,768 recorded cases.
Housing charity Shelter blamed a lack of social housing, spiralling rents, and a "faulty" benefits system for the dramatic rise in the number of rough sleepers.
Chief executive Polly Neate said: "We welcome many of the things that the Government has been doing to seek to improve services for rough sleepers, but without fundamental action to tackle the root causes of homelessness these measures will only achieve so much."
In Fenland, 15 of the rough sleepers recorded last autumn were male and eight were female. All those who had their age recorded, were 26 or over.
UK residents accounted for four of the rough sleepers (17 per cent) while 19 were from the EU. None were from outside of the EU.
Paul Nobet, head of public affairs at homelessness charity Centrepoint, warned that there were many more hidden homeless people living in unsafe accommodation, who were not recorded in the rough sleeper count.
He said: "These snapshot statistics may show a slight decrease in the number of people rough sleeping, but these figures are only the tip of a much larger iceberg."
The Local Government Association, which represents councils, has warned that preventing rough sleeping is "becoming increasingly difficult", citing a funding gap of more than £100 million for homelessness services in 2019-20.
Communities Secretary James Brokenshire welcomed the drop, citing Government strategy backed by nearly £100 million of investment as reason for the downturn.
"The number of vulnerable people sleeping on our streets has now fallen for the first time in eight years," he said.
"But while these figures are undoubtedly a step in the right direction, I do not underestimate the task ahead in achieving our ambition of eliminating rough sleeping altogether by 2027."