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Home   Canterbury   News   Article

Charity Porchlight fears homeless people may slip through net as budget cuts force it to slash rough sleeper team

21 May 2014
by KentOnline reporter

A leading Kent charity fears homeless people may slip through the net amid concerns for the future of its rough sleeper team.

Porchlight says funding cuts have led to the number of outreach workers covering the county to fall by half in a year - to just six.

They are expecting further cuts in 2015, which will leave just four professional outreach workers covering one of the largest counties in England.

Homeless person living on street (file picture)

Homeless person living on street (file picture)



Chris Coffey, head of youth and community services at the charity, said: “In the last year we have helped over 550 rough sleepers - which is no small feat for such a small team - but we can’t continue to meet demand.

"Our waiting list is now consistently over 50, which is something we just didn’t have a year ago.

"With less staff on the ground and such a huge rural area to cover we simply can’t locate everyone who needs help.”

Porchlight says more people than ever before are coming to them with complex needs.

It is now calling on the general public to make a donation to secure the future of their rough sleeper team.

Mr Coffey said: “We are seeing a growing number of people who have a range of needs well beyond housing.

The project could prevent vulnerable people from slipping into homelessness. Library picture

The project could prevent vulnerable people from slipping into homelessness. Library picture

"When rough sleepers aren’t helped quickly enough, things go from bad to worse and it’s left to charities like ours and the taxpayer to pick up the pieces.

Although the charity’s rough sleeper team is part-funded by Kent County Council, the rest is coming out of charity reserves.

He added: "That’s why we need the support of the general public now more than ever.

"We urgently need to bring in sustainable funding and more than that, we need to make single homeless people a priority for local authorities.

"They can’t be allowed to fall off the agenda and be forgotten. Kent needs a bigger rough sleeper team and it needs it now before the situation gets out of control.”

One person helped by the team was Aaron, 22.

He slept rough on Margate seafront before finding Porchlight and turning his life around.

He said: “This time last year I had a job and was sharing a flat with a friend in Margate.

Aaron was helped by staff at the Porchlight charity

Aaron was helped by staff at the Porchlight charity

"I was employed by a graffiti removal and cleaning company and worked hard six days a week starting at 4am.

"I was on a zero-hours contract, so I would only know I had work from week to week, but it provided me with an income.

“After six months in the job, I was suddenly told along with half a dozen others that there was no more work.

"I struggled to find a new job and without any income, I couldn’t pay the rent.

"I asked the council for help but there was nothing available for someone like me – a single adult.

"My flatmate moved to another place but I had nowhere to go. One day when I returned to the property it had been boarded up, with my possessions inside! I was homeless.

Aaron was forced to live on the streets after losing his zero-hours contract job

Aaron was forced to live on the streets after losing his zero-hours contract job



“It was the middle of winter and I tried to find anywhere I could that was warm.

"I was only on the streets for four weeks but that four weeks felt like a lifetime to me.

"I was very depressed and lost a lot of weight; it really knocked my self-confidence.

"I was only on the streets for four weeks but that four weeks felt like a lifetime to me" - Aaron

"I went everywhere I could think of to get help but nothing was coming my way because I hadn’t been in the area for long enough."

He said Porchlight had done everything for him.

Within three weeks he was moved into supported accommodation, and he is now working full-time at a supermarket.

He added: "Without Porchlight, I could have still been on the streets and I might have turned to drink. Instead I am proud of myself and feel positive about the future ahead of me.”

To support Porchlight’s work with a donation, visit porchlight.org.uk/donations

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