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Homeless numbers drop by more than half across Canterbury district

By Joe Wright

The number of people living it rough on the streets of Canterbury has more than halved in the space of a year, it has been revealed.

Last winter, an annual count of the homeless across the district totalled 73.

But following "enormous efforts" to reduce that number over the past year, the figure now stands at 33.

According to statistics, the number of rough sleepers in Canterbury has fallen dramatically
According to statistics, the number of rough sleepers in Canterbury has fallen dramatically

Put down to cash injections from the government and dedicated work by volunteers, the positive result has been warmly welcomed by Cllr Joe Howes.

The vice chairman of the council's community committee said: “Everyone recognises having one rough sleeper on our streets is one too many and there is still an incredible amount of work to do.

“In the past year, enormous efforts have gone into solving this problem by making the most of the public’s donations and an injection of government cash after two successful bids by the city council totalling £550,000.

“This combination of funding is making a real difference to the lives of our most vulnerable people and we cannot afford for it to dry up now. Public donations will help us to maintain this momentum.”

A combined effort between Catching Lives, Porchlight, the city council and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, tackling homelessness has been a key issue the council has targeted.

Cllr's Joe Howes is pleased but says more can be done
Cllr's Joe Howes is pleased but says more can be done

Before this year's count, which was conducted between 10pm and 2am on a night in November, an intelligence meeting was held to identify potential hotspots.

A total of 16 rough sleepers were seen on the night while another 17 are known by the involved agencies and charities.

The government cash has helped Catching Lives extend its winter shelter for an extra three months, fund the recruitment of a new council officer and pay for an expansion of the Severe Weather Emergency Protocol which kicks in during times of extreme cold.

Terry Gore, manager of Catching Lives, said: “It’s definitely a step in the right direction but there’s still a lot more to be done. As an independent charity we rely on the contributions and volunteer support from the broader Canterbury community. It’s all of us working together that’s turning this tide.”

Anyone concerned about someone sleeping rough can contact StreetLink or call 0300 500 0914.

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