Temperatures are plummeting, the nights are drawing in and the number of people sleeping rough in Brighton and Hove is rising.

As most of the city begins making preparations for family yuletide celebrations by the fire, more and more people are instead facing a miserable Christmas on the streets.

Figures over the past three years from Brighton and Hove City Council’s rough sleeper count show a steady increase in the number of people taking to the streets after problems with drink, drugs and breakdowns in relationships – and numbers are expected to rise again this year.

The council’s official count revealed 14 rough sleepers in 2010, 36 in 2011 and 43 last year.

Other data from homeless charity CRI, commissioned by Brighton and Hove City Council, reveals numbers as high as 588 in 2010 to 2011, 732 in 2011 to 2012 and 1,163 in 2012 to 2013.

According to local authority figures over the last three years Brighton and Hove boasts the largest concentration of homeless people compared to neighbouring coastal cities, including Southampton, Portsmouth and Bournemouth.

And ahead of this year’s official count, taking place later this week, homeless volunteers and coordinators are bracing themselves for another busy winter.

Carla Leena, coordinator of the Peace Statue soup kitchen, run by St Mary Magdalene Church, said: “Last year we had very high numbers. We helped a lot of people, more than in previous years.

“This year I think we can expect to help even more people, especially as the winter is meant to be very cold.

“It’s so sad. They need help. People say: ‘Oh well, they shouldn’t drink or take drugs’, but people forget it’s an illness.

“When people get used to homelessness it gets worse. They get stuck in a rut and it’s up to us to be humane and give them care. Christmas is difficult.”

So what is it about the festive season that proves a catalyst for misery?

Homeless charity Shelter recently announced it was preparing for an “alarming rise” in demand for help from people in Sussex, who are struggling to keep their homes this holiday season.

The charity recorded a surge in callers to its helpline over the holiday period last year, with 1,684 people from the region picking up the phone for help in December 2012 – a 20% increase from the year before.

Shelter claims the “shocking” figures reflect the growing number of people “struggling to cope with the rising costs of living coupled with stagnating wages”.

It cites families coming into trouble during Christmas due to mounting bills in the run-up to the now somewhat materially-dominated season.

Liz Clare, a Shelter helpline adviser for nine years, said the Christmas period is the most difficult time of year for her staff.

She said: “The threat of homelessness is devastating at any time of year, but it seems to get worse around Christmas as the strains of the holidays close in and the weather gets cold.

“One Christmas Eve I answered a call from a mum with a disabled son.

“They were evicted from their home that night and had to sleep on the streets in the cold.

“We managed to find them a place to stay, but I’ll never forget the devastation in her voice. The sad fact is that eviction notices can come at any time of year.”

In Brighton and Hove private sector rents have soared 27% in the last year alone. Speaking at a council Housing Committee meeting on November 14 Councillor Bill Randall said: “I have to say rents are going up in this city in the private rented sector at an astonishing rate.

“I’m told by our Housing Department that already this year they have gone up by 27% and the problem is every time a flat or a house changes hands letting agents and landlords take the opportunity to put the rents up.

“I’m glad to see that the government is apparently looking at a report produced by Shelter recently which calls for rent controls in the private rented sector and five year tenancies, which I certainly support.

“We’ve had it in the social housing sector we should have it in the private rented sector as well.”

Despite the apparent high volume of rough sleepers Brighton and Hove has become known as one of the most accommodating places to be homeless.

Numerous charities and organisations now cater for the needy in the city, including the likes of First Base, Anti-Freeze, CRI, The Clock Tower Sanctuary and Emmaus.

They are accompanied by soup runs like the St Mary Magdalene church’s posting at the Hove Peace Statue.

These facilities, combined with hostels, temporary accommodation and night shelter schemes, ensure the homeless aren’t forgotten.

The Brighton and Hove Churches Night Shelter scheme commenced its programme for this year on Saturday night.

Now in its third year the project welcomes up to 15 rough sleepers for an overnight stay that includes an evening meal and breakfast.

Tom Limebear, 19, a coordinator at St Peter’s Church night shelter in York Place, said: “We had our first night on Saturday and it went well.

“They arrive in the evening and we give them a meal and a warm bed for the night.

“They play games, talk or watch films and can go to sleep in the knowledge they’re safe for that night.

“I guess the stereotypical view on homelessness is that alcohol and drugs fuel the problem, but most of the time it’s family or relationship breakdowns. They’re not choices.

“It makes you stop and think that we’re very privileged to have houses and food on the table every night.

“I love working for these guys and think they’re amazing with some really interesting stories. They show how easily our pampered lives can be lost.”

The project, which runs until March 28, is mostly funded from church delegations and donations.

Rough sleepers are referred to the scheme by local agencies and given an interview to ensure they’re suitable to stay overnight.

Speaking about rising homelessness figures Tom said: “It doesn’t surprise me.

“The homeless services in Brighton and Hove are great and everyone does such a good job in providing for rough sleepers.

“You could probably get a meal most days of the week and there are chances of accommodation. It’s easy to understand why people come here from elsewhere.”

A Brighton and Hove City Council spokesman said: “There is an acute shortage of affordable housing in Brighton & Hove and a very long waiting list.

“This means we are not able to offer immediate permanent accommodation to most of the people on the list.

“However, we are desperate to avoid people having to sleep rough when they have been made homeless.

“We assess all homelessness applications individually taking into account the individual’s circumstances.

“However, while we can offer people temporary accommodation we cannot force them to accept our offer.

“We are also committed to working with our partner agencies to offer advice and assistance for people to resolve their housing situation.

“In some cases this can be achieved by finding accommodation in the private sector.”