Fears number of rough sleepers in Wigan could rise post pandemic

There was no change in the number of people sleeping rough in Wigan last autumn, snapshot figures suggest.

Friday, 12th March 2021, 2:05 pm
Updated Friday, 12th March 2021, 2:08 pm
A homeless person

There was no change in the number of people sleeping rough in Wigan last autumn, snapshot figures suggest.

But charities are warning that an end to emergency measures introduced in response to Covid-19 could spark a post-pandemic surge in homelessness nationally.

Thousands of people were preparing to sleep on the streets across England as stricter lockdown measures were introduced during October and November last year.

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Ministry of Housing data shows eight people were found bedding down outside in Wigan during a spot check on one night in that period. According to the Government’s annual rough sleeping count, that number was in line with 2019.

Across England, there was a significant decrease in rough sleeping linked to 2020’s Everyone In scheme, which saw the Government give councils extra funding to accommodate as many homeless people as possible in order to shield them from coronavirus.

Tightening lockdown measures kept the majority behind closed doors as winter drew in but at least six men and two women slept rough in Wigan on that night last year.

The true scale of rough sleeping is thought to be much higher – and could get worse in the aftermath of Covid-19, experts believe.

Crisis chief executive Jon Sparkes said the success of Everyone In underlined the positive impact of a collective response to the issue but warned of a rise in homelessness when protective measures for the pandemic end.

He said the statistics reflect life-changing efforts of authorities to provide people with a safe place to stay during the pandemic.

But he said they do not represent the full picture, adding: “Throughout the pandemic we have seen new people forced onto our streets and every person sleeping rough is one too many.

“The last 12 months has shown that when the political will is there, and homelessness is given the priority it deserves, we can bring people off the streets.

“As the country begins to move out of lockdown, the Government must have a plan to help people end their homelessness altogether and measures in place to prevent them from losing homes in the first place.”

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick said ending rough sleeping was a “personal mission” as he celebrated the success of Everyone In, which supported thousands into secure accommodation.