Counting up Cornwall's homeless people

A homeless man sleeping in a park
Image caption The council will conduct its new count over four weeks instead of one night

Cornwall Council is changing the way it calculates the number of people sleeping rough in the county.

It is the first place in the country to use questionnaires to ask people whether they consider themselves to be homeless.

A Cornish homeless charity claims the county has one of the highest number of rough sleepers in the country.

The council will now conduct the count over four weeks rather than just one night.

Cornwall Council claims it will provide a more accurate assessment of the homeless problem and the idea may be rolled out across other regions in the future.

Other parts of the UK still conduct homeless surveys on a single night and do not count people who are not physically bedded down.

Steve Ellis, of St Petroc's which helps Cornwall's homeless, said he hopes local MPs will use future findings to get more cash to tackle homeless issues in the county.

'Disturbing' figures

Mr Ellis said: "They should be putting pressure on the departments themselves, saying that in our constituencies we have the second highest number of rough sleepers in the country. That's a very powerful message."

A survey conducted throughout October 2010 in Cornwall revealed that 76 individuals identified themselves as rough sleeping - a much higher figure than previously reported.

At an earlier count conducted under the old system in March 2009, more than 80 volunteers conducted a count in 17 towns across Cornwall, and only 12 rough sleepers were recorded.

In the new survey people who access services across Cornish day centres, homeless projects, and soup kitchens across the county will be asked to complete the short questionnaire about their housing status.

Cornwall Council cabinet member for housing Mark Kaczmarek said: "The last survey revealed some disturbingly high figures and this new exercise will provide even more information as it is important for Cornwall to understand the extent of rough sleeping."

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