We had some very welcome news this week from Stockport Homes as they have now started to provide Cold Weather Provision for anyone who is currently sleeping rough. This means that almost anyone, regardless of their circumstances or situation will be provided with somewhere safe and warm to sleep at night. But only if the nightly temperature stays under 0 degrees for 3 consecutive nights. Our staff team have been busy identifying and referring people to this vital winter service. I am however at a bit of loss to hear that while Cold Weather Provision is in place Stockport Homes will conduct a Rough Sleeper Count and put together their yearly guestimate snapshot figure of the number of people sleeping rough in Stockport and send this back to central government. I hope that they will include in their official snapshot figure everyone that they have accommodated under the Cold Weather Provision?
I find that Official Rough Sleeper Counts serve very little purpose and never provide an accurate figure. The people taking part in the count are not permitted to enter places where people do sleep rough such as places that are dangerous and pose a Health and Safety risk. I’m always impressed with the number of willing volunteers prepared to give up 3 hours late on a Thursday evening to do the count though, but then they do all get Friday off work, long weekend anyone?
Rough Sleeper Counts need to be reformed not just in Stockport but right across the country. The counts should be done over a significantly longer period of time than 3 hours on a Thursday evening. Counts should be done over 24 or 48 hours and include people who are presenting as homeless at housing offices, hospitals, police stations, citizens advice centres, job centre as well as Charity’s and other organisations that have contact with people who are homeless. This way we would have a meaningful figure to take back to the government who will then be put under pressure to provide Stockport and other areas with higher resources for dealing with the issues of homelessness. If we tell the government that we only have 3 rough sleepers as Stockport have done many times over recent years then the government is not pushed to provide anything.