TWO rough sleepers have been recorded in Denbighshire following an annual monitoring exercise.

The two individuals, identified as part of the Welsh Government’s National Rough Sleeper Count, were from out of the county and have since been provided with support from Denbighshire County Council.

The monitoring consists of a two week information gathering exercise in October 2019, followed by a one night snapshot count on November 7 2019.

In the two weeks of information gathering, between October 14 and 27, local authorities estimate that 405 persons were sleeping rough across Wales over this period.

This is an increase of 17 per cent on the previous year (58 persons) and the largest year on year increase since this collection began.

During the 'snapshot' count, four rough sleepers were identified in Conwy. This compared to seven in 2018 and 10 in 2017. In Denbighshire, there was one rough sleeper identified in 2018 and zero in 2017.

Cllr Bobby Feeley, Denbighshire’s lead member for well-being and independence, said: “These figures provide a snapshot of the number of rough sleepers in Denbighshire. We continue to engage with the community to identify rough sleepers and make them aware of the support and help available through our Homeless Prevention Team and Tŷ Golau night shelter.

“We know homelessness can have a profound effect on health, education and job prospects and over recent years, the council and our partners have been working on a wide range of initiatives to reduce homelessness and find longer-term solutions for individuals or families who may find themselves without a home. We have now brought all of our plans into our homelessness and housing strategy and this is already having an impact."

The monitoring exercise is carried out by all local authorities in Wales in partnership with other agencies to gauge the extent of rough sleeping across Wales.

Information gathering takes place in order to estimate the number of people thought to be sleeping rough within each local authority area over a two week period. Four were identified in Denbighshire and 21 in Conwy. This compared to one person in Denbighshire in 2018 and 10 in Conwy.

The November 2019 count is described as a 'snapshot estimate' and provides a broad indication of rough sleeping levels on the night of the count.

Julie James, Minister for Housing and Local Government, said: The count provides a snapshot picture of rough sleeper numbers, with local authorities providing a two week estimate and undertaking a one night count. We have set out in previous years the limitations of the count and acknowledged last year that the apparent stabilisation of rough sleeper numbers in 2018 did not reflect what we all saw on the streets of Wales.

"As a Government committed to the goal of ending homelessness, we are of course disappointed that the numbers reported in the 2019 count have increased. We are not, however, surprised by the increase. It reflects the reality of what we see on our streets, the complexity of the issues and the discussions we have with stakeholders. I have set out on a number of occasions that despite our increased investment and ground breaking preventative legislation, local authorities are facing a rising tide in the numbers of people sleeping rough, due in no small part to the impact of the UK Government’s austerity policies and the impact of welfare reforms.

"I acknowledged in my statement to the Assembly in October 2019 that we needed to do more and think afresh about our approach. This is precisely what our new strategic approach for preventing and ending homelessness, published in October 2019, aims to do. It is also the reason I established the Homelessness Action Group, in recognition of the need to think afresh and do things differently, utilising the expertise available in Wales and beyond to achieve the change required.

"Whilst these figures are disappointing, it is vital we maintain our focus on working with the Homelessness Action Group and act on their expert advice to improve our response to these issues in Wales.

"It is important to acknowledge that the first report of the Homelessness Action Group was published in October 2019 and work to implement its recommendations will not therefore be reflected in the 2019 count. In line with the Report’s recommendations, Welsh Government has been working with a number of local authorities across Wales to implement the recommendations."

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of homelessness charity Crisis said: “No one in our society should be forced to sleep rough. It’s simply inhumane that more people across Wales are known to be on the street, where they are at greater risk of damage to their health, being attacked, and even dying at a younger age.

“It’s no way for people to have to live and there are clearly some short-term actions needed to stop the situation getting any worse. But the only way to end rough sleeping is prevent it happening in the first place and ensure people can be quickly rehoused if they lose their home.

“There are promising signs in some local council areas that better outreach and offering multi-agency support can help. By dealing with the root causes of homelessness and rough sleeping and helping people into accommodation governments, charities and public services can work together to end rough sleeping and homelessness. While there are no shortcuts, we know with the right measures in place it can be done.”