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Kent charity warns ‘lives could be lost if £1m funding is slashed’

Kent’s largest homeless charity has warned “lives could be lost” amid plans to pull £1m of vital funding.

Porchlight says the imminent financial blackhole could mean its hostels - which house 180 people - could face the axe next year.

People sleeping rough often have to resort to begging
People sleeping rough often have to resort to begging

The worthy cause stresses the money from Kent County Council will dry up in April but says the central government is to blame for the shortfall.

Porchlight spokesman Chris Thomas says: “We are losing a lot of funding and the impact could be devastating.

“It is putting our homelessness hostels at risk of closure and we have other services which help people facing homelessness, which could disappear too.

“They are not just buildings, they are places people can live and while they are there we will give them emotional support and help them rebuild their lives.

“If services disappear then what help is there for people? Our worry is if our hostels close, if our other services get scaled back, if other organisations are affected then lives are going to be lost - it’s a really dangerous situation.

“I can’t emphasise that enough.”

Porchlight tackles homelessness in various ways.

In January, a revolutionary life-saving tent was deployed on Kent’s streets to protect people from the freezing weather.

A collection of the revolutionary Sleep Pods, which have been donated to Porchlight
A collection of the revolutionary Sleep Pods, which have been donated to Porchlight

Forty of the emergency, single-occupancy shelters, called “sleep pods”, were donated to the Canterbury-based charity.

In September last year, Porchlight won its bid to accommodate eight people in two four-bedroom properties in Ramsgate and Margate.

It had to apply to make the properties - which it owns - Houses of Multiple Occupation with Thanet District Council granting permission.

Mr Thomas told kmfm that stripping back its services could have severe repercussions amid the cost-of-living crisis.

“People have been pushed to the brink of homelessness or into homelessness, especially if they’re on a low income or living in poverty anyway.

“They don’t have a safety net that can typically catch them when things go wrong.

“So people who have already been affected by the crisis could well be down the path to homelessness.

“To avoid people ending up on the streets or possibly even dying we need central government to give money specifically for homelessness and councils.

Kent County Council has specifically asked the central government for this money but none have been forthcoming yet.”

When funding dries up in March public donations will help keep hostels afloat until the end of the year, Mr Thomas added

Asked how the charity will survive, he added: “I don't think we really know at this time.

“Hopefully the public will help our hostels stay open a bit longer - the future is looking pretty bleak actually.

“Losing these hostels, which is such a big part of what we do, it would just be devastating.

“Lives could be lost it just doesn’t bear thinking about.”

A KCC spokesperson said it is “very aware of Porchlight’s concerns” and is “working hard” to “ensure vulnerable residents at risk of becoming homeless continue to get the help they need”.

“Most accommodation we directly funded through the Homeless Connect Service will be retained and discussion about future arrangements are continuing,” the added.

A spokesperson for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, said it has handed £17m to Kent councils through its Rough Sleeping Initiative.

"We are now spending an unprecedented £2.4 billion to help people at risk of homelessness and support rough sleepers, including £220 million announced just yesterday, which will help fund thousands of beds and specialist support services across the country through councils.

"We have also given local authorities in Kent up to £17 million through the Rough Sleeping Initiative.

“Whilst we have made good progress and rough sleeping remains below pre-pandemic levels, there is more work to be done to meet our ambition to end it entirely and we will continue to work with local authorities to help people off the streets for good.”

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