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Thousands of children in Kent face being homeless this Christmas

By Nicola Everett

The number of children in Kent who face being homeless this Christmas has more than trebled in five years.

Figures given to KentOnline show 2,052 under 17s do not have a permanent home, up from 675 in 2013.

Shelter has described the numbers as "frightening" as it warned the impact of the housing crisis will be felt across a generation.

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Thousands of children in Kent will wake up on Christmas day in temporary accommodation. (4037702)
Thousands of children in Kent will wake up on Christmas day in temporary accommodation. (4037702)

The problem is at its worst in Medway where one in every 102.5 0-17 year-olds are living in temporary accommodation, putting the towns among the top 50 in the country.

Thanet has also reported a significant increase in homeless youngsters - over the past five years, figures have rocketed more than 1,200% to 218.

Every part of the county has seen an increase in child homelessness except Tonbridge and Malling where figures for 2013 were not available, however, 42 are said to be without a home this year.

Canterbury figures were also unavailable for five years ago and no children in the city are said to be in temporary accommodation in 2018.

John Bibby, policy manager at Shelter, said: "We don't believe that any child should be spending Christmas Day in a place that isn't their own home.

"We particularly don't believe that they should be spending Christmas Day in somewhere that is like a bed and breakfast or a homelessness hostel like many of the 11,000 children across the region who wake up this Christmas will be.

"When we say B&Bs sometimes people have visions of the countryside but this is far from that.

"We're talking often about a family sharing a single room sometimes we have cases where whole families are having to share a single bed."

Scroll to hear from Canterbury based Catching Lives

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Across Britain, 131,000 children are now homeless which is the highest number in over a decade.

In the South East it's predicted more than 700 of the 11,300 homeless youngsters will wake up on Christmas day in a hostel or B&B.

The increasing numbers are being blamed on a freeze in housing benefits, rising rents and a lack of council houses and it is feared the problem will escalate again next year.

John added: "There are record numbers of people in work and yet the number of people becoming homeless is just going up and up because even people in work are at risk of homelessness.

"It used to be the case that working was your protection from becoming homeless but it just isn't anymore and that really is the fundamental breakdown in the social contract that will really make people stop and think.

"When that's having an impact upon people's children and they're having to spend a time like Christmas not at home, not gathered round the tree but rather huddled together in a single room worried about what the next year holds for them, then I think that really is a shame upon us all."

The charity is urging people to support an urgent appeal with a £3 donation.

Canterbury-based charity Catching Lives support rough sleepers across east Kent and fear the rising number of children who are living in temporary accommodation will lead to more people on the streets in future.

Project leader, Graeme Solly, said: "We know the Government's plans under the rough sleeper initiative are to half (the number of rough sleepers) and then by 2027 have a situation where no one needs to sleep rough, and good work is underway, but that's a big undertaking.

"Although some funding and some plans are in place, looking at figures like this it shows the level of challenge this will be.

"The majority of people we see at our centre are those who're rough sleeping, but we always hit home the message that whether people are on the streets or sofa surfing or in temporary accommodation, people have a range of support needs from health to education to work.

"Sometimes when people are hidden away in accommodation, just because they have a roof over their heads, doesn't mean the support they need is being addressed or provided."

Rochester and Strood MP Tolhurst MP said: "It is very saddening when families with children have to resort to temporary accommodation particularly at this time of year, but I know our council does work hard to prevent people from becoming homeless in the first place and the council commissions a range of support and accommodation all year round to help people with nowhere to live.

"Medway Council has recently received a substantial sum of government funding under the Rough Sleeping Initiative which will allow it to intervene more effectively and get these families back on their feet.

"Shelter's figures are a direct correlation between the number of households in temporary accommodation, for example, a number of those families may have more than one child which is something we must recognise.

"But while the majority of these families are housed as quickly as possible in local accommodation with access to their own facilities, there is still more we can do to ensure Medway’s most vulnerable families find permanent accommodation and that is a commitment the council and I share."

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