Published: 15:00, 05 February 2018
| Updated: 15:30, 05 February 2018
A charity says it is being "stretched to breaking point" as it struggles to cope with the rising number of homeless people in Kent.
Figures revealed by Porchlight show there has been a 39% increase in people sleeping rough across the county, as it worked with more than 600 people on the streets.
The charity helps get those affected off the streets in freezing temperatures, but fears that without funds, people’s lives will be put at risk.
Between April and December last year, the charity supported 633 people in Kent, which was up from the 462 people they helped in the same period during the previous year.
In Ashford the crisis is particularly acute, with volunteers finding 66 rough sleepers during the period, up from 45 the year before.
ASHFORD: 66 people (April 2017 – December 2017) compared to 45 (April 2016 – December 2016) - a rise of 46%.
CANTERBURY: 97 people compared to 73 - a rise of 32%.
DARTFORD: 59 people compared to 43 - a rise of 37%.
DOVER: 30 people compared to 54 – a decrease of 44%
GRAVESHAM: 92 people compared to 41 - a rise of 124%.
MAIDSTONE: 89 people compared to 61 - a rise of 45%.
SHEPWAY: 78 people compared to 64 - a rise of 21%.
SWALE: 9 people compared to 17 – a decrease of 47%
THANET: 94 people compared to 67 - a rise of 40%.
TONBRIDGE & MALLING: 16 people compared to 4 - a rise of 300%.
TUNBRIDGE WELLS: 61 people compared to 20 - a rise of 204%.
Charity chief executive Mike Barrett said: “Quite frankly, the future for people on the streets or those at risk of homelessness has never looked so bleak.
“Some councils are being forced into making some impossible decisions on how to spend their diminishing social care budgets and this is decimating the help that’s there for people in need. This includes our street teams and our hostels.”
Mr Barrett said that the new Homeless Reduction Act will put responsibility on councils to prevent people from becoming homeless in the first place, but says he has no confidence that the new legislation will be effective.
He said: “It should be a positive step but our concern is that they will not be able to meet the costs of these new duties because of the extreme financial pressures they're already facing.
“Instead of simply placing the responsibility onto local authorities, the government needs to make proper investment in homelessness support and provide more affordable housing.
"Until it does nothing will change and homelessness will continue into the next generation.”
Among those who have been supported by Porchlight is Daryl, who experienced depression and post-traumatic stress from his job in the road traffic response unit.
His life spiralled out of control after the death of his father, leaving him homeless for six months and feeling suicidal.
He said: “It was absolutely horrible. You don’t know where your next meal is coming from or what you’re going to do. You’re on your own.
“Everybody but Porchlight turned their backs on me. Without them, I would be six feet under.”
Daryl was provided with a room in a hostel, and is now rebuilding his life as a volunteer with the charity.
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