Published: 15:20, 28 July 2021
| Updated: 14:05, 29 July 2021
Homeless charities across Kent say the government must continue emergency funding if it's serious about ending rough sleeping.
A report from the Kerslake Commission on Homelessness and Rough Sleeping is calling for the government to maintain the additional funding it made available during the coronavirus pandemic – an estimated extra £82 million a year.
The commission said councils and charities now predict an increase in homelessness when the winter months approach, and are calling for a continuation of government schemes such as the Everyone In initiative.
During the pandemic, Canterbury City Council housed a total of 67 homeless people through the use of a Travelodge on Ivy Lane.
Of those staying at the hotel, 42 have now secured housing. However, the remaining 25 have returned to the streets.
A spokesman for the council said they are continuing to engage with those unable to secure housing, but added that “moving people off the streets can take a very long time.”
Meanwhile, in Medway all of those sleeping on the streets were taken into accommodation provided by Medway Council, with 24/7 on-site support.
They also had access to three meals a day and other essential items.
One Big Family and Serveco were the two charities supporting the people in Medway accommodation.
Elizabeth Shaw, senior lead at One Big Family said: “Multi-agency cooperation was vital in facilitating this, and the vast majority of clients were successfully moved on to more permanent accommodation.
“However, I am aware that this may not have been the case across the rest of the country.
"To end rough sleeping by 2024 would be amazing - but unfortunately, many people who are rough sleeping have multiple and complex needs."
Porchlight is Kent’s largest charity for homeless and vulnerable people, and has been busy supporting rough sleepers across the county.
Chris Thomas from the charity said: “Porchlight was heavily involved in this Everyone In Scheme, which when the pandemic started put all these measures in place to get rough sleepers off the streets and into safety.
“Obviously the government put a lot of money into that and it went to show that when the government is serious about tackling rough sleeping, it can be done.
“But with this potential wave of homelessness that may happen soon, we need more support there, we can’t go back to the way things were.”
According to government figures, around 37,000 homeless people were provided with Covid-secure accommodation, alongside access to health and support services.
Although it has insisted the scheme is still ongoing, members of the housing committee said it was no longer helping everyone in need of accommodation.
To prevent a surge in rough sleeping, the commission is calling for the £20 Universal Credit boost, introduced as a temporary measure during the pandemic, to be extended.
Mr Thomas added: “There are a lot of people out there on low incomes and really struggling to survive. What we really need is for the government to recognise that this kind of support was inadequate before the pandemic began.
“Taking away this extra money that people have been getting is just going to put them in an even worse situation.”
Councils and charities say they are working tirelessly to support the homeless.
A rough sleeper initiative launched three years ago by Canterbury City Council has now seen 352 individuals moved into permanent accommodation.
It will continue for another 12 months after receiving funding of more than £650,000.
Cllr Joe Howes said: “Their dedication to helping improve the lives of those who are sleeping rough and are so vulnerable should be shouted from the rooftops.
“We are also lucky to have such fantastic local partnerships with organisations such as Catching Lives, Forward, Porchlight, several local churches and the Department of Work and Pensions.
“I look forward to seeing many more success stories where we transform people’s lives in the coming months.”