Lies and Statistics

According to a government survey there are only seven people sleeping rough in Manchester at any one time. Let that figure sink in for a moment before you cry the inevitable “bullshit”.

The authorities stand by this figure stating that it is based on a robust method of acquiring the data to determine this number. This method roughly breaks down as follows; two people with a police escort are sent out for one night of the year to count the number of people sleeping rough. Only people actually sleeping can be counted, if they are in a shop doorway in a sleeping bag but awake guess what – they aren’t sleeping rough! In addition they are discouraged from going into dangerous areas (thus eliminating Ancoats where most of us know the majority of rough sleepers seem to go) or from entering derelict buildings, but I guess those sleeping rough in the building that burnt to the ground earlier this year couldn’t have been counted anyway, if your screaming in pain as you burn alive you obviously aren’t sleeping.

The problem is that this survey is then used to calculate the amount of money that is needed in an area to tackle the problem leading to chronic underfunding. All of the charities involved with the homeless have complained about the method and the Scottish Executive no longer accepts that its a valid means of determining the scale of the problem.

An interview about the problem can be found on the Today Programme’s website, but beware that does require the horror that is Real Player.

The worrying thing is that this problem with statistics has been going on for at least five years as one of my fellow students at university was married to someone who worked for The Big Issue (in the publishing area, not selling it before some of you make that joke) and used to complain about this same issue, but nothing seems to have been done.

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