Published: 20:34, 24 June 2020
| Updated: 07:51, 25 June 2020
A deal struck with a budget hotel chain and a city council to house rough sleepers has been extended, after the government announced a fresh cash injection to stop people from ending up back on the streets.
The original £163,000 agreement between Canterbury City Council and Travelodge to house 57 rough sleepers at its branch in Ivy Lane was due to end on Tuesday, June 30.
But an announcement from the Treasury for £85m worth of new funding means the deal has been extended for a month, with 20 rooms available in Canterbury to support those who were sleeping on the streets.
The government said the new funding would provide interim support for 15,000 vulnerable people across the country who were accommodated during the pandemic.
Some money will also be provided to help rough sleepers secure their own tenancies, as part of the government's commitment to ending rough sleeping for good.
There are currently 33 rough sleepers temporarily housed at the Travelodge.
It was revealed last month that some were evicted for breaking the rules, though many grasped the opportunity to improve their prospects.
"We were ahead of the game when it came to setting it up and we have made a huge difference to the lives of many people."
The city council says there are still 13 people known to be sleeping rough, either because they were kicked out due to their behaviour or because they did not engage with the project.
It has found permanent accommodation for 18 people. Two others have been reconnected to areas where they had previous links.
Of the 33 remaining, most have places to go in the next two to four weeks, such as rooms in shared houses or supported accommodation.
The rest have more complex needs, such as drug or alcohol dependency, and work is beginning with a variety of agencies to develop "tailored move-on plans" alongwith specialist support.
The city council's head of community services, Marie Royle, said: "This has been an exceptional project so far and we are very pleased to be able to run it for another month, so that we can look after some of the most vulnerable people who need our support and make those housing arrangements they need for the future.
"It has attracted a lot of national interest as an example of how to run such a scheme.
"We were ahead of the game when it came to setting it up and we have made a huge difference to the lives of many people.
"We have always been a council that takes rough sleeping very seriously, with high quality support services available locally, and this will continue in the years to come."
Graeme Solly, project leader from homeless charity Catching Lives, had been working with his team to prepare the centre for an influx of rough sleepers if the accommodation deal ended.
"We've been busy making changes to the centre - screens in place, markings down, because we anticipated a lot more demand on the service.
"We can look at going to them and supporting them in that accommodation, rather than focusing the resources on the rough sleepers going to the day centre.
"We're really delighted to see the news, we're keen to work with the council and Porchlight and other organisations to keep as many people in temporary accommodation, as well as secure settled accommodation to avoid people going back to the streets."
Porchlight's chief executive Mike Barrett says: "This is welcome news that will bring many homeless people a step closer to leaving the streets behind for good. Porchlight will work with local authorities to get people into more permanent housing where they can continue rebuilding their lives.
"Tackling homelessness isn't just about putting a roof over people's heads - it's also about helping them to overcome the emotional trauma caused by rough sleeping and addressing issues that may have contributed to their situation.
"We've been providing this support to people in emergency accommodation, and it's important this continues when they're rehoused.
"There is still so much work to be done to stop the scandal of rough sleeping in this country."
"It's why we'd also like to see long term ring-fenced funding for specialist supported housing where people can live whilst getting help to make longer lasting changes. Without it, many will be unable to overcome the issues they face and will eventually end up back on the street.
"This is particularly important because homelessness charities, whose services are already stretched, anticipate a real risk of more people becoming homeless when the ban on evictions is lifted in October.
"There is still so much work to be done to stop the scandal of rough sleeping in this country, but this funding is a good start to helping many more people leave homelessness behind for good."
Ms Royle thanked all those involved with the project, as well as those living near the Travelodge.
"We'd like to say a huge thank you to our partners at Catching Lives and Porchlight for everything they have done to make this project such a success, as well as Travelodge for making their rooms available to us when others refused," she said.
"It is a commercial arrangement, but it is one they did not have to do.
"We would also thank residents living nearby for their patience as we have developed this vital project. Looking after this number of vulnerable people in one location brings its challenges and we are grateful for their understanding."