Kent's homelessness crisis worsens, as those sleeping on the streets goes up by nearly half
The number of rough sleepers on Kent's streets has surged by nearly half - leaving charity workers stretched to the limit.
Nearly 150 people were forced to sleep on the streets in the nine months since April last year.
That compares with just 99 in the whole 12-month period betwen 2011-12, according to the latest figures from homeless charity Porchlight.
The original report suggested welfare reforms were linked to a rise in homelessness. Library picture
Chris Coffey, head of youth and community services at Porchlight said: "The number of people in Kent who are new to the streets is rising.
“We have seen an increase of around 50% since 2011.
“146 people have been forced to sleep rough this year, but with the 12-month period we measure our figures not ending until April this year, we expect to see that rise further.”
The stats also show 90% of these rough sleepers in Kent are men, with four in 10 aged 35-49.
Relationship breakdown, changes to benefits, job loss and debt are thought to be key reasons for the rise.
A homeless teenager on the streets. Library picture
But, staff cuts to charities such as Porchlight mean less help is available and the official figures could hide an even greater problem.
Chris Coffey added: "Our service has reduced significantly in the last two years. We currently only have four people funded to work with rough sleepers across the whole county.
“That was a team of 12 over a year ago and over 20 the year before that.
“Cuts mean our ability to react and respond is under pressure.
“We can’t run on fresh air, we need stable funding to enable us to have a team this year and into the future.
“We are trying to campaign and raise awareness and bring in more funding to increase that team and enable us to get to vulnerable people on the streets.
“People need to tell us if they are or know people who are sleeping rough; the faster we can help them the more chance we have of preventing them from becoming entrenched in that lifestyle."
Monique, who was helped by Porchlight
Porchlight provides support to around 1,000 people in the county on a daily basis across a range of services.
Monique,18, is just one person the charity has helped in the last six months.
She said: "There were times where I would just walk around the Folkestone area late at night, sleep out on the street or sofa surf with people I barely knew.
“I look back now, and I realise how dangerous and isolating being alone on the streets was.
“I was very self-destructive, depressed and pushing people away who were trying to help me, things would have got worse and I could have gone off the rails because I was very close to breaking point.
“It is a scary thought to think where I would be right now without Porchlight. They helped me regain my self confidence and helped me put my life back together.”
“We can’t run on fresh air, we need stable funding to enable us to have a team this year and into the future" - Chris Coffey
The charity offered Monique a new path after she escaped an abusive relationship last year.
She says she has progressed a long away in a short space of time thanks to the charity.
She said: "How they handled my case was incredible. I thought I would be waiting months before they found somewhere for me, but it was just a week.
“Where I am now, is the happiest I have been, I take cooking courses and socialise with more people and I’m excited to start a work experience programme soon.
“It is a huge stepping stone for me and will hopefully get me to where I want to be.
“My sister was also in Porchlight and since she has left she has done so well for herself. She works as an estate agent now and is renting her own house - and I want to follow her path, get a job and lead a normal life.”
If you want to donate, help or get in touch with the charity visit their website.
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