The number of rough sleepers from EU countries has almost tripled in the West Midlands in the last year, the latest government figures reveal.
There were 48 rough sleepers counted in the West Midlands on one night in autumn 2018, up from 18 in 2017.
According to the single night snapshot, six of those EU rough sleepers were in Birmingham, up from one person in 2017 and none the year before.
Campaigners say the figures show EU citizens in the UK are being left vulnerable to homelessness.
The number of EU rough sleepers in Wolverhampton also rose, from six to 11 between 2016 and 2017.
However, the Black Country as a whole has seen an overall decline in EU nationals sleeping rough on its streets over the past two years, with the number dropping from 12 to eight.
Nationally, there has been an almost 50 per cent increase in rough sleepers from the EU over the past two years, mostly driven by the substantial rise in London.
The latest government figures reveal a total of 1,048 people from EU countries were sleeping rough as of autumn 2018.
That is up from the 760 rough sleepers recorded the previous year and a rise of 47 per cent from 714 counted in 2016.
The rise in the number of EU citizens sleeping rough compares to a decline in the number of UK nationals finding themselves homeless and on the streets.
There were 3,013 UK citizens counted as sleeping on the streets across England in autumn 2018 – down from 3,396 in 2017.
Similarly, the number of people who were neither UK nor EU nationals sleeping rough also fell, from 193 in 2017 to 153 last autumn.
These figures are a snapshot of rough sleeping on a single night of the year, and as such are likely an underestimate of the true number of people living on the streets.
The figures can also be affected by other factors, such as the availability of alternatives including night shelters, and the weather.
However, they are useful in showing trends in rough sleeping, and comparing year on year.
Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, said: “It’s a sad reality that the numbers of EU nationals sleeping rough has gone up in the last year, and that since 2010 the numbers of UK nationals and others sleeping rough in England has increased by 16 per cent.
“Many EU citizens in the UK are being left vulnerable to homelessness and rough sleeping as a result of their entitlements to welfare and housing support being withdrawn, as well as other contributing factors like a lack of affordable housing.
“Ending all forms of homelessness across the country is possible, but this is not going to be achieved under the current system.
“Everyday our centres are visited by people in the most desperate circumstances asking for help and what we urgently need to see to end this crisis is access to welfare and housing support as well as specialist advice on their rights to ensure more EU nationals are not pushed into homelessness.”
Birmingham Homeless Outreach
How you can help
- Birmingham Homeless Outreach always welcomes donations, both for care packages and for the new centre.
- Rik says that the most valued items are clean sleeping bags, warm coats and jumpers, gloves, toiletries, soap and sanitary products.
- They also welcome canned food, cereal, dried pasta and rice, biscuits and other easily prepared foods.
- The new centre in Digbeth plans to host a Christmas dinner, and is appealing for Christmas care packages and volunteers to help out.
- Any businesses hoping to sponsor the project can get in touch with both charities at www.bho.me.uk or www.langaraid.org .
According to the Office for National Statistics, there were 597 homeless people who died on the streets in England and Wales last year – a 24 per cent increase compared to 392 deaths in 2013.