THE number of vulnerable people sleeping rough on the streets of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole has reduced by 65 per cent in the past year, according to latest figures.

In BCP Council’s official street count in November 2020, 25 individuals were recorded as sleeping rough. This compares with 72, 12 months earlier.

Since the November count, in the latest MHCLG bi-monthly count the figure has reduced again to 13, the lowest number of rough sleepers counted for the area in more than 10 years.

Councillor Hazel Allen, BCP Council lead member for homelessness, said: “It’s really positive to see that the numbers of people that are sleeping rough has reduced in our towns.

“Together with our partners, we have been working hard throughout the pandemic to help people into emergency accommodation and with the additional funding received from government we have been able to provide the intensive ongoing support and accommodation options needed to help people longer term and prevent them from returning to the streets.

“However, we know that homelessness is an ongoing issue, and despite the falling numbers we will continue our efforts. No one should have to sleep rough and so we are committed to investing in our services to reduce the numbers of people facing homelessness.”

Since March 2020, more than 370 people who were either sleeping rough or at immediate risk of being on the streets, have been supported into emergency accommodation.

Andrew Teale, area service manager for St Mungo’s, said: “These figures are a real testament to the sheer hard work and tenacity of everyone in our outreach team who has been working flat out throughout the pandemic to support people away from the streets into safe accommodation.

“Undeniably, the pandemic has given us an unprecedented opportunity to build relationships with people on the streets who previously have, for their own reasons, preferred not to engage with our team.

“We have seen many people connect, for the first time, with vital services in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole to support with drug and alcohol use, mental health, physical health and wellbeing.”

In the last couple of months, BCP Council received more than £1 million of funding to support people who are rough sleeping or at risk of being on the streets during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mr Teale added: “With the economic downturn and increased unemployment, it is more important than ever that we are able to provide rapid support to get people off the streets and, importantly, into suitable, long-term accommodation.

“It has been a privilege to be part of such a ground-breaking and collaborative response to the crisis and shows just what can be achieved when homelessness organisations, local government and health services work even better together in circumstances such as this.

“It is vital that we take this emergency response and translate it into a new approach that will help us move towards an end to rough sleeping.”