The number of people sleeping rough on the streets of England has fallen for a second year in a row, according to official figures.
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government estimated that 4,266 people were sleeping rough on a single night in autumn 2019.
The figure is down 411 on the previous year – a drop of 9% – and down 10% on the peak of 2017.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson admitted during a visit to homelessness charity The Connection at St Martin’s in central London on Thursday that Britain’s rough sleeping crisis is “totally unacceptable”.
He said: “The number of people sleeping rough in our country is way too high.
“It is true that they have been coming down in the last year or so, but we want to drive that forward now.
“We want to make a big, big dent in those numbers.”
However, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said the fall in numbers represents a “positive start” and that the Government remains committed to eradicating the “social ill” of rough sleeping.
“It is a moral scandal that in 2020 so many people continue to sleep rough on the streets, and that is why I am determined to end the blight of rough sleeping by the end of this Parliament,” he said.
“This confirms what I have seen since becoming Housing Secretary – that dedicated, targeted support backed by unparalleled levels of Government support is getting vulnerable people off the streets and into safe accommodation where they can turn their lives around.”
For Labour, shadow housing secretary John Healey said the official estimates did not show the true scale of the problems.
He said that, even by its own estimates, the Government is set to break its pledge to end rough sleeping by the end of the Parliament which, at the current rate of progress, would not be met until 2037.
“Any apparent fall in street sleeping is welcome, but everyone knows these misleading statistics are an unreliable undercount of the true scale of the problem,” he said.
“Ministers won’t fix the crisis of rough sleeping until they deal with the root causes of the problem, which means facing up to the impact of deep cuts to housing, social security and homelessness services since 2010.”
The latest snapshot came as Mr Johnson announced £236 million in what he said was additional funding to provide “move on” accommodation for up to 6,000 rough sleepers.
The Prime Minister has also appointed former homelessness tsar Dame Louise Casey to carry out a review into the causes of the problem.
“Rough sleeping is only the tip of the iceberg – there are literally hundreds of thousands more homeless people stuck in temporary accommodation.
“You can’t put a plaster on a gaping wound.”
The figures showed the number of people sleeping rough in London has decreased for the first time in six years.
There were 1,136 people estimated to be rough sleepers in the capital – down by 147 on 2018, a fall of 11%
The South West was the only region where there was a notable increase, with 490 people sleeping rough – a rise of 32, or 7%.
The biggest fall was in the West Midlands where there were 319 – down 101 on 2018, a drop of 24%.