Is Sunderland winning the war on homelessness?

Homeless people sleeping rough on the streets of London.
Homeless people sleeping rough on the streets of London.
Have your say

COUNCIL bosses claim they are winning the war on homelessness as a week of action comes to an end.

National Poverty and Homelessness Action Week, which finishes tomorrow was held to raise awareness of the problems of homelessness and poverty around the country.

In Sunderland, council chiefs claim that there is only one person sleeping rough on the city’s streets each night.

Coun Graeme Miller, responsible for health, housing and adult services at Sunderland City Council, said that the number of people sleeping in subways and doorways across Wearside has reduced from three on any one given night between 2010 and 2011, to one between 2013 to 2014.

And despite figures from homeless charity Centrepoint, released in December, which suggested that 18 young people – aged between 16 and 24 – would spend Christmas in a hostel, Sunderland City Council said that there are no families living in temporary accommodation, such as bedsits, in the city.

“While figures for people accepted as homeless and in priority need of rehousing have increased reflecting the national trend – from 82 in 2011/12 to 127 in 2012/13 – this doesn’t mean that they are actually sleeping rough,” said Coun Miller.

“In Sunderland early intervention to provide help and support to those most at risk of rough sleeping has seen the figure reduce from three on any given night in 2010 / 11, to one on any given night in 2013/14.

“This proactive, partnership approach based on shared information and resources has also significantly reduced the number of people in temporary accommodation in Sunderland unlike national figures which have increased.

“Currently there are no families residing in bed and breakfast placed by the council as opposed to four cases this time last year and eight in 2012, which is a fantastic achievement bearing in mind the increases nationally.”

However city priest Chris Howson, said he has been shocked at the number of people seeking refuge at drop-in sessions for the homeless.

“For us the fact that the figures have gone down doesn’t add up with the number of people who turned up to the drop-in session at Burn Park Methodist Church on Sunday,” he said.

“Generally, the church would say it is pleased that the council has taken an interest in homelessness and poverty, but there are many people who have to stay in dark corners of Sunderland, and the bedroom tax is only going to exasperate that.”

National Poverty and Homelessness Action Week ends tomorrow – Poverty Action Sunday – with a night shelter being provided for those sleeping rough around the city.

Rev Howson is helping to coordinate the shelter, and advises those who need help to attend the drop-in session at Burn Park Methodist Church from 6.30pm.

They will then be taken to Bede Tower, on Burdon Road, where accommodation will be provided for the night.

Anyone who feels they may be in danger of becoming homeless should log onto where they will find information to help with a variety of situations.