Rough sleeping falls by 9% as crucial crossroads reached

Posted 24 Feb 2022

The government has today released new snapshot figures on the number of people sleeping rough in England. They show: 

  • 2,440 people were estimated to be sleeping rough on a given night in autumn 2021. 

  • 4,880 people were being accommodated in emergency accommodation as of December 2021 (in line with the cold weather provision and Protect & Vaccinate initiative). This includes people coming into accommodation directly from the street, people previously living in night shelters, and people who were at imminent risk of sleeping rough.  

  • The number of people sleeping rough is still 38% higher than in 2010 when the data started being collected. 

  • In 2021, the local council areas in England with the highest numbers of people sleeping rough were Westminster, Camden, and Bristol. 

In addition, new figures from Shelter’s recent survey of local councils found: 

  • Most councils surveyed had seen people initially helped off the streets initially under ‘Everyone In’ - the initiative to find emergency housing for people sleeping rough during the pandemic - returning for help because they are either homeless or at risk of homelessness again. 

  • Most councils surveyed indicated that a lack of appropriate and affordable homes was the biggest barrier to long term housing for people helped by the scheme. Councils say they have struggled to find enough supported housing, social homes, or appropriate private rentals. 

Osama Bhutta, Director of Campaigns at Shelter, said: “These figures show the race to end rough sleeping has started but it’s far from over. The extra provision of emergency accommodation was working last autumn to put a roof over people’s heads. 

“We’re now at a fork in the road. There is a real danger that more people will be faced with the streets as the cost of living crisis rages, as well as a roundabout of repeat rough sleeping. We see it in our services and councils are reporting it too – the biggest barrier to keeping people permanently off the streets is the lack of suitable, long-term homes. 

“The government pledged to end rough sleeping by 2024, it cannot possibly achieve this goal without a proper plan to tackle the root causes. We need a roadmap out of homelessness - one that begins with making sure everyone at risk of the streets is given a safe place to stay, and ends with the building of truly affordable social homes.”  

Anyone who is facing homelessness can get free and expert advice from Shelter by visiting To donate to Shelter’s Urgent Appeal and help to give thousands of people fighting homelessness the support, security and hope they need, visit  

Notes to editors:

Details of the official government rough sleeping figures for England: 

Details of the government figures on emergency accommodation 

  • Numbers of people staying in emergency accommodation in December 2021 are taken from DLUHC, Annex A: Support for people sleeping rough in England, 2021, Table 1. Emergency and short-term accommodation includes hotels, B&Bs, local authority-managed temporary accommodation, student halls and other accommodation that has been used to accommodate people sleeping rough or at risk of sleeping rough through 'Everyone In' and which would not otherwise have been available to them. 

Details of Shelter’s survey of local authorities: 

  • Survey findings are from a survey sent by Shelter to heads of housing at every local authority with responsibility for housing in England which was open between 15th November and 17th December 2021. We received responses from 32 (10%) local authorities in which: 

  • 24 respondents agreed that they had seen ‘some’ or ‘many’ people who have made new approaches to the local authority as homeless or threatened with homelessness since the end of their emergency accommodation under the Everyone In scheme during the pandemic, or have been newly referred as rough sleeping  

  • When asked what the most significant barriers were encountered in moving people provided with emergency accommodation during the pandemic into longer term homes:  

  • 28 respondents rated a lack of appropriate supported housing to meet needs of those accommodated as a significant or most significant cause.  

  • 28 respondents rated a lack of appropriate private homes to meet specific demand (e.g. for single people) as a significant or most significant cause.  

  • 25 respondents rated a lack of appropriate social housing to meet specific demand (e.g. for single people) as a significant or most significant cause.  

  • 24 respondents rated a general lack of social housing stock as a significant or most significant cause.