Preston’s homelessness challenge continues as emergency unit ‘full almost every night’

Posted on - 5th September, 2023 - 7:00am | Author - | Posted in - Charities, Preston City Centre, Preston Council, Preston News
Out on the city streets helping those in need Pic: Tom Stables/Foxton Centre
Out on the city streets helping those in need Pic: Tom Stables/Foxton Centre

An emergency accommodation unit for rough sleepers in Preston is full almost every night of the week, the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) can reveal.


The facility, operated by city homelessness charity The Foxton Centre, opened just over 12 months ago and the organisation’s chief executive, Jeff Marsh, says that its 14 beds are almost always occupied.

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According to the latest annual snapshot survey, the number of people sleeping rough in Preston more than doubled in the space of a year.

Big PNE Sleep Out: Ryan Lowe and Preston North End players visit Fox Street Day Centre

Thirteen individuals were found homeless on the city’s streets on a single night last autumn – up from six in autumn 2021.  That means that the estimated rough sleeping population is back at the same level as in 2019 – before a national Covid-driven initiative to find all those living on the street somewhere to stay.


While Preston’s figures are still down from a peak in the 20s during the 2010s, Jeff says that it is “really sad” that the numbers are heading back in the wrong direction. He told the LDRS that a combination of factors had contributed to the rise locally, which he said reflected a national trend.

“Everybody’s been suffering with the cost of living and also, during the early part of Covid, evictions were put on hold – whereas that has now been [reversed].

“There is a lot of pressure on public services, too – it’s difficult to access a range of different sorts of services.

“A lot of [the people we help] have mental health issues – and the problems accessing mental health services are well documented.   It’s a real struggle, particularly to get emergency help – and that can contribute to the breakdown of relationships, which can precipitate people being on the street,” Jeff explained.

Big PNE Sleep Out: Charity event returning to Deepdale in November 2023

He said that the complexity of the needs of the people staying in Preston’s emergency facility – which is located to the north of the city centre and supports single people, rather than families – meant that it was often difficult to find suitable accommodation for them to move on to.

“Then we can’t take new people off the streets,” Jeff added.

However, he recognised the ongoing efforts of Preston City Council to try to secure longer-term accommodation for those people who have passed through what should be a temporary unit.

“You can’t do it overnight – you’ve got to identify the building, get everybody on board with it and then get funding for it,” the charity boss said.

At the height of the pandemic, Preston turned to unused student accommodation to house its rough sleepers.

The government says that it is committed to ending rough sleeping by the end of the current Parliament.  Under the national Rough Sleeping Initiative, which Jeff says has already made a difference in Preston, the city has been allocated £3.1m in funding for the period 2022-2025.

Separately, the city council has been given a Homelessness Prevention Grant – designed to help stop people becoming homeless in the first place – of £333,000 for 2023/2024, with an additional £123,000 to assist with the Homes for Ukraine scheme, as well as other people at risk of homelessness.

Between January and March this year, government statistics show that Preston City Council assessed the circumstances of 78 households in relation to homelessness – and concluded that all of them were either already without a roof over their heads or were about to be so within the next 56 days.

As a result, the authority considered that it owed a homelessness prevention duty to 31 households and a homelessness relief obligation to the 47 others that had already lost their homes.

The Big PNE Sleep Out will aim to raise £50,000 to support the Foxton’s Day Centre and is taking place on Friday 17 November.

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You can sign up via Eventbrite to secure your place for the Sleep Out and once registered you’ll be able to set up a Justgiving page to register your donations and help build towards the £50,000 target.

If you can’t make the event, you can also donate via Justgiving.

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