Rough sleeper numbers in Bedford rise for third year

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Bedford Borough has recorded the ninth highest level of rough sleepers in England.

An official headcount revealed 59 people spent nights braving the cold in shop doorways and car parks around town last year.

This is double the figure recorded in 2014, putting Bedford in the top 10 alongsideBirmingham, Luton and Manchester.

Yet despite the increase, the council says it is continuing its work to reduce homelessness and rough sleeping in the borough.

But a spokesman for the Prebend Day Centre, which is run by (BeCHaR) Bedford Concern for the Homeless and Rootless, insisted: “We have seen a rise in the number of rough sleepers over the last 12 months.

“Some of the reasons are a lack of affordable housing in our area.

“Rents are increasing and housing benefit has not kept pace, we have also seen a rise in Eastern European clients who do not have recourse to public funds.”

The council however says efforts were being made to persuade rough sleepers to access support currently available.

A council spokesman said: “No-one need sleep rough as the council spends over £1 million each year to provide a wide range of accommodation and services that can help.

“The council continues to encourage rough sleepers to access these services.

“We are soon to open a Complex Needs Unit with accommodation and specialist support for those rough sleepers with the most complex needs.”

The new unit will have 24-hour staffing and be home to 31 individuals.

Councillor Mohammad Yasin, said: “This unit will provide a home for individuals who would otherwise be living on the streets.

“It will be a safe place for them to get back on their feet, where they develop their life skills build up their confidence.”

The building will also include 19 units for those with medium to high needs who are likely to be more engaged with the system but need additional support.