THE number of rough sleepers in Bradford has fallen to its lowest rate in more than a decade in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The number of people sleeping rough recorded in the district in Autumn 2020 was just five, down from 13 the previous year and the lowest number in at least ten years.

Of these, four were men and one was a woman, with one person being British and the other four being EU Nationals, and all were over the age of 26.

The Government figures are taken as a “single night snapshot” of rough sleeping by local authority.

In West Yorkshire there were 54 rough sleepers accounted for in Autumn 2020, with the majority – 35 – being recorded in Leeds, but the total figure is down from 90 the previous year.

The number of rough sleepers in Bradford was high at the start of the 2010s before dropping slightly and ramping up again in 2018, but have now fallen again.

There are a number of factors that contribute to homelessness, but the Government’s eviction ban throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and Universal Credit uplift will have had a large impact on numbers.

Across England, 2,688 rough sleepers were counted in the Autumn, down from 4,266 in 2019. Yorkshire and the Humber recorded 181 rough sleepers, the second lowest number in the country, and a fall from 24 the year before.

Emmaus Bradford is a homelessness charity currently working on opening its first community in the city. It said it has seen an increase in homelessness in Bradford due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and has a team of staff and volunteers working to tackle the problem in the district.

Rachel de Luca, Chair of Trustees at Emmaus Bradford said: “Most of the provisions for rough sleepers in Bradford during the pandemic has been short term emergency care.

“Bradford is still very much in need of a long-term solution to homelessness. Although ‘Everybody In’ got people off the streets, these people weren’t always offered sustainable tenancies.

“Without this much needed long-term solution, there will continue to be a group of ‘revolving door’ service users who always end up back on the streets. Due to a number of reasons they struggle to cope with independent living.

“At Emmaus Bradford, we are working towards opening up the first Emmaus community in the city, offering long-term accommodation, with both support and meaningful work to people who have experienced homelessness.”

Simon Grainge, chief executive of Emmaus UK, added: “It is unacceptable at any time that people are forced to sleep rough.

“However, during the COVID-19 crisis, it is all the more urgent that everyone at risk of rough sleeping is provided with somewhere safe to stay, regardless of their immigration status.

“The government’s data shows that the initiatives that have been put in place are not sufficient – we need an immediate return of the Everyone In scheme that provided emergency housing to more than 33,000 people during the first lockdown.

“We are particularly concerned about the extremely limited options for people who are not able to access the benefit system and call on the government to suspend the no recourse to public funds (NRPF) condition so that no-one needs to resort to sleeping rough during the pandemic.

“We also need decisive action from government to prevent a new wave of rough sleeping as the furlough scheme ends and the ban on evictions is lifted. Hundreds of thousands of people are in rent arrears as a result of the pandemic and without additional support many more could be faced with the trauma of losing their homes.”