Watford Borough Council is set to receive £581,817 from the government to help support rough sleepers.

There has been active work in Watford to accommodate and support rough sleepers, particularly since the wake of the pandemic.

For much of the year, Watford Borough Council and Watford’s New Hope have repeatedly said that there were no known rough sleepers in the streets of Watford – with a New Hope spokesperson claiming that many sightings are likely to be beggars, and not actual homeless people.

But now Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has announced that £203million funding will be allocated to councils across England to support projects such as shelters, specialist mental health or additional services and targeted support to help rough sleepers.

It will be used by councils, charities and other local groups to fund up to 14,500 bed spaces and 2,700 support staff across England.

Watford Borough Council will specifically be funded an additional £581,817, while Hertsmere is receiving £306,872 and Three Rivers District Council is receiving £5,000.

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Mr Jenrick says that analysis of the Rough Sleeping Initiative – now in its fourth year – shows that the programme has reduced rough sleeping by almost a third compared to areas which have not taken part.

The number of people sleeping rough across England has fallen for the third year in a row, and by 37 per cent in the last year alone.

Government funding has almost doubled this year to provide additional support to those affected by the pandemic, and the new funding is part of a £750million investment this year to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping.

Mr Jenrick said: “At the beginning of the pandemic we took swift and decisive action to bring rough sleepers in from the streets and settled them into longer-term accommodation in record numbers. That work continues, the results are clear and are a huge credit to all involved.

“Ending rough sleeping is a personal mission for the Prime Minister and me – and we have made huge progress since he came into No.10, reducing rough sleeping by 43 per cent.

“To build on this progress, we are making the biggest ever investment under the Rough Sleeping Initiative to provide vital services to those who need it most, as part of our drive to end rough sleeping for good.”

On March 24 New Hope CEO, Matthew Heasman, said: “The numbers of rough sleepers in Watford remains at zero. The lives of many of the most vulnerable members of society are being gently transformed. We know it will be very challenging ahead, but for now, there is a sense of new hope and optimistic for many.”

According to a spokesperson from the Watford-based homeless charity, while rough sleepers have been accommodated, there are still beggars – and the charity believes these beggars are not homeless.

A spokesperson said: “The number of verified rough sleepers is currently zero following the success of last year’s Everyone In scheme and the provision of additional accommodation in the town.

“However, there are sometimes still people begging in Watford. This is because not everyone who begs is street homeless.

“This is why we encourage members of the public not to give money to people they see begging.”

Data from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government also indicates how the homelessness crisis in Watford is decreasing.

Between July and September 2018, the last time these figures were published, there were 66 households that identified as homeless and were in need of help.

According to the data, 22 of these households had members that were employed but were still homeless.

Some efforts to tackle rough sleeping in Watford includes three floors of One YMCA's Charter House being redeveloped to create 34 temporary housing rooms for rough sleepers.

If anyone is concerned about someone possibly facing homelessness, people are encouraged to contact New Hope’s 24/7 phone number, 0300 012 0168.