THE number of people reporting having slept rough in Dumbarton and the Vale has shot up by 1,300 percent, the Reporter can reveal.

In a report released by the Scottish Government recently, the number of people applying to West Dunbartonshire Council for homelessness, who had slept rough in the past three months, has gone from just five people in 2017-18 to 70 in 2018-19.

People who told the council they had slept on the street the night before making their application had also risen massively, from zero the year before, to 35.

The number had previously been on the decline from the previous year, 2016-17, which saw 105 people being on the streets in the three months before their application, and 50 saying they were out in the cold the night before.

In total, the number of people who were accepted by the council to be homeless, or nearly homeless across the area, has reached almost 1,000.

Read more: West Dunbartonshire has worst homelessness levels in Scotland

According to the figures, 930 applications were accepted by WDC in 2018-19, hovering around the same level as the previous year, which saw 915 people deemed homeless.

Homelessness applications have also stayed roughly the same from year to year, with 2018-19 seeing a small decrease in the total, which now stands at 1,040 - down from 1,055.

A spokeswoman for West Dunbartonshire Council said: “These statistics are representative of people who say they have slept rough and are therefore significantly higher than the one actual recorded instance of rough sleeping in West Dunbartonshire for 2018/2019.

“West Dunbartonshire Council is committed to tackling homelessness and has seen a 21 per cent reduction in the number of people presenting as homeless as a result of early intervention and education.

“Our Rapid Rehousing approach, which fast-tracks homeless households to settled accommodation, will reduce this further.

“Our Homeless and Homelessness Prevention Service operates 24/7 to support any individual in need with information, advice or emergency accommodation and can be contacted on 08001971004.

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Kevin Stewart, the housing minister at the Scottish government said: “In a country with some of the strongest rights in the world, it is unacceptable for anyone to find themselves without a home. Our Ending Homelessness Together Action Plan sets out a range of measures that support our ambition to eradicate rough sleeping, transform temporary accommodation and end homelessness altogether.”

“We are tackling this challenge in the context of the UK Government’s welfare cuts which we know are causing major hardship and housing insecurity for many people - a growing number of studies show these cuts are causing homelessness. We are spending more than £125 million this year to mitigate against the worst impacts and protect those on low incomes, including £62 million in Discretionary Housing Payments.

“We want to make sure that anyone facing homelessness is supported into permanent, settled accommodation that meets their needs as quickly as possible. I’m pleased that the latest statistics show a significant increase in households securing settled accommodation, but we have further to go.

“There are multiple, complex reasons why people sleep rough - many have experienced addiction problems or suffer from poor mental health and require specialist support, in addition to a home, to tackle these issues.”