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Supporting vulnerable rough sleepers across the District

15 November 2021

a human figure sleeping on a pavement outside a shop

Two people have been identified as rough sleeping in the South Hams this year. The figure is a combination of the number of rough sleepers identified on the night of 8/9 November in Totnes and Ivybridge together with an estimate for numbers of people who are sleeping rough elsewhere in the District. However, South Hams District Council believes that the true number of people without a permanent home is likely to be much higher.

Every year, councils across the UK make estimates and get out and about to take part in a snapshot count of people who are sleeping rough. The number of people in this year's snapshot is one more than last year. However, the number of actual rough sleepers identified in Totnes is still lower than the seven counted in 2019.

The Council uses estimates as the most accurate way of arriving at a number. This is because of the large geographic area of the South Hams, which means a full count would not be able to encompass all the areas involved.  Instead the Council works with partnership agencies such as the Police and Rough Sleeper Drop-In centres. The figure is based on verified sightings of people who are sleeping rough or individuals we have very strong reason to believe were rough sleeping on the specified night.

The figures on people sleeping rough in the District are preliminary only and will be verified later this year by The Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. 

Cllr Judy Pearce, South Hams District Council Executive Member for Housing said: "The shortage of accommodation in our area that is at a price that local people can afford has reached crisis point. Sadly, this has also contributed to an increase in people who are sleeping rough this year. We do the count every year to identify any changes locally so we can design our future services to meet local need better. However, we know it will not include everyone. Some people who are sleeping rough will never make contact with our Housing Advice Service so it would be very helpful if you let us know of anyone sleeping rough in the South Hams. If you don't know their name, the place where they are usually found and a brief description would suffice.  

"We also realise that there is a huge number of other people in our District who do not have a home but are not sleeping rough - for example, sofa-surfers who are relying on friends and family to get by. As a Council, we're working to increase the number of properties locally available at below market rate to ease this issue.

"We're committed to making sure everyone has a safe and comfortable roof over their heads. By working closely with other agencies and finding new ways to offer more and safer accommodation, we can achieve that. Our Housing First project takes a holistic approach to offer a full range of support. Working with multiple agencies, this approach finds a suitable long-term home for someone who is homeless. It also significantly increases their chances of keeping the accommodation and making positive life choices." 

From now until 1 March 2022, the Council offers additional support for homeless people in our area through the Severe Weather Emergency Protocol.

Anyone sleeping rough (or anyone concerned about someone sleeping rough) can contact a member of the Housing Team about finding safe and warm accommodation during the winter months. Please call 01803 861234 Monday to Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m and an outreach worker will contact you. Outside of these hours please call 01803 867034 to speak to our Duty Officer.

The definition of a rough sleeper, for the purpose of the Government's estimate is as follows:

  • People sleeping, about to bed down (sitting on/in or standing next to their bedding) or actually bedded down in the open air (such as on the streets, in tents, doorways, parks, bus shelters or encampments)
  • People in buildings or other places not designed for habitation (such as stairwells, barns, sheds, car parks, cars, derelict boats, stations, or "bashes"). 

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