There are four people sleeping rough on the streets of Lancaster, 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 four people were sleeping on the streets in Lancaster during a spot check on one night last autumn, according to data from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG).
An estimate in 2010 put the number of rough sleepers at two.
Charities think official figures are likely an underestimation, as many rough sleepers stay in hard-to-find places. The MHCLG compares different areas by working out the number of rough sleepers as a proportion of all households.
Lancaster has a rate of one rough sleepers for every 1,000 households, which is lower than the national average.
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 Lancaster, all of the rough sleepers recorded last autumn were male and all were UK citizens. Of those who had their age recorded, all were 26 or over.
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.”