The Liberal Democrats have become the first major party to commit to ending the "national scandal" of rough sleeping across Britain, including in Sunderland.
The latest figures show there were 18 people sleeping rough in Tyne and Wear in 2016, up from 14 the previous year. This includes 3 people under 25.
Meanwhile new research has revealed that 1,997 homes in the possession of the region's five Labour- controlled councils are vacant, despite the housing crisis.
The Liberal Democrats have set out a series of measures to end rough sleeping, including introducing a Housing First provider in each local authority that would put long-term homeless people straight into independent homes rather than emergency shelters.
The news comes as a coalition of homelessness charities, including Centrepoint, Crisis, Homeless Link, Shelter and St Mungo’s, have called on political parties to commit to end rough sleeping in Britain.
Niall Hodson, Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Sunderland, said:
“It is a national scandal that so many people are sleeping on the streets in 21st century Britain.
“By increasing support for homelessness prevention and properly funding emergency accommodation, we can end rough sleeping in Tyne and Wear and across the country.
"It is likewise a disgrace that despite the housing crisis, so many council homes owned by North East Labour councils are lying empty.
“We will ensure our local authority has at least one provider of Housing First services, to allow long-term homeless people to live independently in their own homes.
“The evidence suggests that supporting people and giving them long-term, stable places to stay is far more successful in tackling homelessness than constantly moving them to different temporary accommodation.
“Under this government, homelessness has soared and young people have been stripped of housing benefit, threatening to make matters even worse.
“This election is a chance to change the direction of this country and stand up for a Britain that is open, tolerant and united."
Notes to Editors
Figures on the number of people sleeping rough by local authority can be found here.
The Housing First model, developed in the United States, has demonstrated high degrees of success in supporting those who are chronically street homeless according to research by homelessness charity Shelter (link).
The total annual cost of homelessness to the state is estimated at £1 billion (link)
Hodson: Lib Dems vow to end rough sleeping in the North East
Lib Dems commit to ending rough sleeping in the North East