The number of people sleeping rough on the streets of Liverpool has remained broadly stable, according to the latest government figures.

Official, independently verified figures released today suggest that 17 people were sleeping on the streets of the city centre on November 13, 2019 - the annual night of the rough sleeper count.

The count acts as a snapshot of one night and provides a comparison year-on-year - with two more rough sleepers seen on the streets compared with the 15 found in 2018.

While that number has risen slightly, it is well down on the 33 identified in Liverpool in 2017 and comes after the city council has made large efforts in this area, including the launch of a dedicated night shelter at Labre House.

However, there are major questions being asked about the government's method of reporting homelessness figures.

A BBC investigation has suggested that in England, five times as many rough sleepers were seen by councils in the year than reported in official figures, which are a one-night snapshot.

In 2018, while the official government data showed that 4,677 people slept rough in England on the night the snapshot survey was taken - council responses to the BBC showed that the actual figure was more like 25,000.

The Mayor Liverpool Joe Anderson chats to homless man Jason outside the Labre House rough sleepers shelter

The BBC's investigation has led to Labour's shadow housing secretary, John Healey, writing to the UK Statistics Authority to ask them to investigate the accuracy of the government's data.

He said: "These figures expose the shameful scale of rough sleeping on our country's streets.

"They also confirm that the government's own published statistics are seriously misleading and an unreliable undercount of the number of people sleeping rough."

Despite the arguments over data collection, Liverpool has been seen as a pioneer in tackling rough sleeping in recent years.

The city council was one of the first to launch a dedicated night shelter and works in tandem with the Whitechapel Centre charity to ensure that there is always somewhere for people to go to get shelter, food, clothes and support.

The council spends £11.3 million in total on preventing and tackling issues related to homeless and has 768 units of temporary accommodation available.

The city council also funds a team of outreach workers who engage with those sleeping rough in the city on a daily basis to assess their needs and to encourage them to come inside and accept the range of support services available.

Rough sleeper in Liverpool

Figures from October 2019 show Labre House housed 268 people for at least one night during the course of the month, and the average number of people using the centre each night was 85. The outreach team encouraged 74 rough sleepers to come inside and accept help.

Mayor Joe Anderson said: “This figure is just a snapshot but does show that we have broadly maintained the progress we have made in reducing the number of rough sleepers in the city centre over the last couple of years.

“However, today’s figures are no cause for complacency. Anyone walking through the streets of the city centre will realise that there is still more work to do.

“Liverpool does more than any other local authority in the country to support those who are in the most need and it is good to see that the services we have introduced are continuing to have an impact.

Read More

Top news stories

“We have adopted a partnership approach which has seen some great work from a host of organisations, volunteer groups and residents of the city. Our plan is to continue to work to do all we can to support rough sleepers in Liverpool off the streets and help them to turn their lives around.

“We have a range of services to support anyone who may be facing homelessness and help around 6,000 families a year. People can get in touch before it reaches the stage where they have nowhere to stay.

“Despite our finances being more stretched than ever there is no need for anyone to sleep on the streets of Liverpool and there is always help available.”

David Carter, chief executive of The Whitechapel Centre, which co-ordinates the outreach teams, said: “Our services are working around the clock to ensure we find the right accommodation and support for every homeless person.

“Even if a person isn’t ready to come indoors, we will continue to offer help and support daily and try to find a different solution or approach that will work for them.”