Homelessness at record low, Government says

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The number of people sleeping rough on the streets has fallen to a record low, according to Government figures released yesterday. However, homeless charities say that those living in temporary accommodation have reached an all-time high.

Campaigners claim that that the method of recording rough sleepers hides the true scandal of more than 380,000 people who are the "hidden homeless."

The new figures show that for the first time there are fewer than 500 people sleeping on the streets in England. Rough sleepers have fallen from 1,850 in 1998 to 459 in 2005, the lowest recorded level.

Housing Minister Yvette Cooper told The Independent: "The number of rough sleepers that we had in 1998 was a shocking indictment of failed social policies and a sign of horrendous social exclusion. I think we were right to make that a priority and the progress we have made on rough sleepers is very welcome. There is still a lot work to be done, particularly around temporary accommodation."

The number of people being registered as homeless and those living in bed and breakfast accommodation is also expected to have fallen when the figures are released later today.

But campaigners say that the success in reducing the number of rough sleepers and B&B residents has simply transferred the problem to the soaring numbers of people in poor quality temporary accommodation.

More than 100,000 households, most of them families with young children, are classed as living in temporary accommodation according to official statistics. Charities believe the real figure could be more than three times that when those living in hostels, squats and other places are included.