Rough sleepers 'attracted' to Leamington and Warwick, councillor claims

Cllr Peter Phillips
Cllr Peter Phillips

The rise in rough sleepers in Warwick district is down to homeless people being 'attracted' to the area's town centres, a district councillor has claimed.

Cllr Peter Phillips (Con, Budbrooke), portfolio holder for housing and property at Warwick District Council, made the claim after new government figures showed Warwick district had the highest rate of rough sleepers in the West Midlands.

He said: “The number of rough sleepers on our streets is of great concern to Warwick District Council.

“We understand from our voluntary sector partners that some have come from other districts as they are attracted to Leamington and Warwick, because the towns are vibrant and affluent where people are generous and are known to give freely to those begging.

“Many of the 21 people who sleep rough often have complex problems sometimes related to alcohol or drugs which require long-term support from the District Council, the County Council, NHS, the voluntary sector and multiple other support groups.”

The figures from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government released last week showed Warwick district had 3.4 rough sleepers per 10,000 households, and the number of rough sleepers had doubled since 2010.

In contrast, Stratford district had 3.1 rough sleepers per 10,000 households, and Rugby borough and Birmingham both had 1.3.

LWS Night Shelter, based at the Prior’s Club off Clemens Street, said it regularly gets 30 to 40 homeless people visiting them for food every Friday and Saturday night.

A spokesman for the shelter said: “We are saddened by these figures but they do not come as a surprise to us.

“We have noticed an increase in the number of guests using our shelter, and have had to adjust the quantity of food donations we receive in order to meet the rise in demand.”

And Warwick and Leamington MP Matt Western called for more social and affordable housing to help combat the issue.

He said: “I am extremely concerned to see that Warwick district has the highest rate of rough sleepers in the West Midlands, considerably higher than Birmingham or Rugby.

“Rough sleeping has increased markedly in the local area and homelessness as a whole has doubled in two years. We need more social, council and affordable housing and we need them now.”

In light of the figures, Cllr Phillips said the council has launched new strategies to help rough sleepers.

These include a new policy for rough sleepers to always have access to overnight accommodation if the temperature is zero or below, and investing in ways to prevent homelessness.

Cllr Phillips added: “We very much hope that these actions alongside the “Think Before you Give” campaign we have been running since 2016 will make a real difference in helping the most vulnerable turn their lives around.”