Published: 14:40, 23 December 2014
More people are facing Christmas on the streets as the number of rough sleepers in Kent rose by more than a third in the past year.
Homeless charity Porchlight also predicts the figure will continue to increase during the coming months, putting an extra strain on services.
Jane Redman, director of fundraising and communications, said that Thanet, Maidstone, Shepway and Canterbury were among the worst-affected areas.
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“Demand is high across all categories, from people new to rough sleeping to those who are entrenched and those who have returned to the streets," she said.
“As a result of funding cuts, our team of outreach workers has been dramatically reduced to just six people covering the whole of Kent and we’re struggling to meet demand.”
Currently Porchlight’s waiting list for accommodation stands at 85.
She added: “Another big concern is the fact that more people are coming to us with complex needs, well beyond housing, which puts even more pressure on our services.”
The charity provides supported accommodation across the county as well as working to prevent homelessness and rough sleeping.
Video: Homeless charity Porchlight organises a Christmas dinner
Aaron McCarthy, a 22-year-old from Dover, found himself homeless for six months after leaving home at 15.
He said: “I was on people’s sofas before they kicked me out because I didn’t have much money so I had to sleep on the streets for a couple of months.
“Really I’ve been trying to find my feet since I was 15, but it is hard, it’s really hard.”
He added: “There is help out there, if anybody gets stuck just call Porchlight.
“They’ve caused a massive change for me. I know I’ve got someone to turn too and speak about my problems, but since I've been with Porchlight, there haven't been any problems."
The figures come just weeks after KentOnline revealed that nearly 500 families in Kent are facing Christmas Day in temporary accommodation.
Currently there are 671 households in temporary accommodation across the county, which can include B&Bs or bedsits. Almost three quarters of these include children.
The figures came to light after a county-wide investigation prompted by a report by homeless charity Shelter that said 6,217 children in the South East would be without a permanent home this Christmas.
Medway is at the top of the list with 104 families, followed by Ashford with 93 and Swale with 57.
Wendy Checksfield, from Porchlight, said that this time of year was particularly difficult.
“It really is one of the most challenging times for homeless people. Not only do we see referrals go up at this time of year but also a rise in rough sleepers.
“It also reminds people what they’re not part of or what they were once part of and it can exacerbate those problems.”
Cabinet portfolio holder for housing at Swale Council, Cllr John Wright (Con), added that he was not surprised by the figures.
He said: “We always have a spike at this time of year due to finances and families breaking up.
“I think people who are well-off think it’s a case of someone has lost their job or they’ve been kicked out for non-payment of rent; and yes that does happen, but a lot of it is due to children being kicked out by their parents when they reach 16/17 years of age.
“We do have an officer who acts as a mediator to try and bring families back together. We put more effort into preventing homelessness so people don’t find themselves in an unfriendly room without their support network.”
Cllr Wright added: “If they are truly homeless then we have a responsibility to try and find temporary accommodation for them.”
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