Rugby’s hidden homeless: Charity says figures fail to reflect the extent of a serious social problem

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OFFICIAL figures show there are more needy homeless people in Rugby today than there have been for years.

And the problem is far worse than government data suggests, according to a Rugby charity.

The Office for National Statistics published a report last week that stated 21 people were regarded as ‘homeless and in priority need’ in the borough in the first three months of this year. This compares with 17 over the same period in 2009 and 2010 and is the highest since 2008, when the number was 24. The figures are in line with the national average.

But according to Joanne Cheshire, a support worker for the Hope4 charity, there is a far larger number of ‘hidden homeless’ in the town.

She said: “You don’t need to be lying on a park bench to be homeless - a lot of homeless people walk around the streets and look like anyone else.

“It’s a difficult problem to log accurately, which is why it’s so important people know about the help they can receive.”

The Hope4 centre, in Church Street, has a range of facilities for homeless people and offers advice and support. About 25 people use it frequently.

Joanne added: “We know we’re not reaching everybody. Our numbers went up last month, which was surprising, as the weather was good.

“Problems with the economy are a major factor. People are losing their jobs, their families break up, their health deteriorates, and they end up trapped.”

The needs of homeless people are assessed by Rugby Borough Council, which takes into account matters including health, age and number of children.

Of the 21 homeless people regarded as being particularly needy from January to March, 19 were white, one black and one Asian.

Call Hope4 on (01788) 572456 or the borough council on (01788) 533837 for help or for more information.