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Last Updated: Monday, 12 September 2005, 14:17 GMT 15:17 UK
Rough sleeping drops to new low
Homeless person
More than 100,000 children live in temporary accommodation
The number of people sleeping rough on the streets in England has fallen to a record low, the government has said.

There are now an estimated 459 rough sleepers, according to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister figures. This is a fall of 75% from 1,850 since 1998.

Much progress had been made in tackling the worst form of homelessness, Housing Minister Yvette Cooper said.

But she acknowledged that more still needed to be done to reduce the number of people living in temporary housing.

Poverty trap

Ms Cooper said: "Rough sleeping is at an all-time low and we have ended the scandal of families with children living for long periods in bed-and-breakfast hotels.

"We are also seeing the number of people becoming homeless falling significantly, showing that prevention is making a real difference to more and more people.

"But we still need to do more, especially to reduce the number of people in temporary accommodation. It's vital to get them back into settled homes and avoid getting stuck in the poverty trap.

"We are doing this by investing in more social housing and homes for shared ownership as well as increased funding for prevention."

Reasons for homelessness
38% relative/ friends no longer willing/able to house
19% breakdown of a relationship
14% ending of assured shorthold tenancy
2% mortgage arrears

The ODPM estimate provides a "snapshot" of the numbers of people sleeping rough on a single night.

The method of counting rough sleepers was developed by the government in partnership with the voluntary sector and independent evaluation by the National Audit Office has shown it to be the most robust method so far devised, the ODPM said.

Housing and homelessness charity Shelter said the new figures showed a "very welcome achievement".

Its director Adam Sampson said: "Although these figures only provide a snapshot, this does suggest that the target to keep rough sleeping as low as possible is being sustained - a significant and very welcome achievement.

"But there are many more homeless people than those who sleep rough."

Cash investment

He suggested the government's own target of halving the number of households in temporary accommodation would be met with only 3.75bn investment to build an extra 60,000 homes for social renting.

Shelter also said last week that figures in a report from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister showed that the number of homeless families with children - who make up at least 65% of the total - will not have halved by 2010.

However, London-based homelessness charity St Mungo's welcomed the new figures, saying they demonstrated that the situation was continuing to improve.

Temporary housing figures
100,970 households in temporary accommodation
72% of these had dependent children
84% in self-contained housing
6% in bed and breakfast
10% in shared facilities

Ms Cooper also paid tribute to an effective partnership between the government, local authorities and voluntary sector groups.

More than 200m has been invested over the last three years to prevent and reduce homelessness and hostels are also being improved with a 90m cash injection.

The government has also announced plans to build an extra 10,000 social homes a year by 2008.

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