Published: 00:00, 12 July 2016
The number of people sleeping on the streets of Kent has doubled in the past year.
New figures released by homeless charity Porchlight show there has been a sharp increase in the county's population of rough sleepers, with the number of people aged 25 and under who are homeless having tripled since 2014.
A total of 223 people slept on Kent's streets between April and June, compared to 106 for the same period last year. Of these, 34 were under 25 years of age, which is an increase of 23 on 2014's record.
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Porchlight CEO Mike Barrett is concerned that the homelessness crisis is only going to get worse, despite the charity's good work.
He said: "Everyone deserves a safe and stable place to live but as rising rents and welfare reform push more and more people into the trauma of homelessness, the need for charities such as Porchlight has never been greater."
VIDEO: Homelessness doubles in Kent
The grim statistics come after concern was raised over the issue of rough sleepers sparked by the death of a man who was sleeping in a tent in the middle of Chatham. Samson Paine was found on June 15 opposite the town's main bus station. There have been unconfirmed reports that four homeless people have died on Medway's streets recently.
Despite the fears sparked by the Porchlight figures, the charity is keen to highlight its achievements. One of the charity's best success stories is that of Steven Evans, who was homeless at 17 and is now forging a career with a mobile phone company in Sandwich.
Family breakdown and a serious mental health condition saw him end up on the streets, but help soon arrived when a friend gave him somewhere to sleep. He then got in touch with Porchlight and has turned his life around.
He said of his time in the charity's care: “I immediately felt safe. I was so grateful for the things that most people take for granted, like clean clothes and being able to lock your door and have your own space.
“Homelessness can happen to anyone. I was so lucky that Porchlight were there for me and I want to do everything I can to help."
As part of new career role, Steven now helps arrange work experience placements for other people using Porchlight's services.
If you would like to donate to help the charity continue its work, visit the website here.
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