£1 million boost for rough sleeper work

Library image of a rough sleeper bedding down on the street
A rough sleeper bedded down on the street. Library image

Canterbury City Council has secured government funding of almost £1 million for its work to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping during 2020/21.

Canterbury City Council has secured government funding of almost £1 million for its work to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping during 2020/21.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government grant totals £955,246 and will fund two key projects – the city council’s rough sleeper initiative and the expansion of a scheme that helps to prevent prisoner homelessness upon release to more areas in Kent.

The council, together with its partner organisations Porchlight and Catching Lives, launched its dedicated rough sleeper initiative in July 2018, and has worked with 260 individuals since then. Of these, 198 are now off the streets and living in accommodation.

This accommodation could be social housing, private rented housing, or supported accommodation for people with more complex needs.

Rough sleeper work is not limited simply to finding people a roof over their head, though. Of the 260 individuals, 154 have been supported to access substance misuse services, 51 have accessed mental health services and 25 have either completed education courses or have found jobs.

However, the problem of rough sleeping continues. The council estimates around 10 new individuals appear on the district’s streets on average each month.

And in December 2019 alone, the council worked with 39 people, 17 of who were new to the area. Eleven of these have already been secured accommodation.

Meanwhile, the scheme to prevent prisoner homelessness upon release launched in early 2019 in four Kent areas – Canterbury, Maidstone, Medway and Thanet – following a successful bid for funding led by the city council.

In its first year, 27 prisoners who would otherwise have slept rough were found suitable accommodation. And now, the project will be expanded into four more of the county’s districts – Dover, Folkestone and Hythe, Gravesham and Swale – as a result of another city council funding bid.

This project is important because of the transient nature of rough sleepers who have previously been prisoners. It allows authorities to take a much broader view of the issue.

Research shows around 50 per cent of prisoners in Kent have no accommodation to go to when they are released, and almost half of all rough sleepers in the county have an offending history.

Chairman of Canterbury City Council’s Community Committee, Cllr Neil Baker, said: “This huge funding boost is very welcome and will allow us to continue the excellent work that has been taking place on these two vital projects. Tackling homelessness is rightly a priority, but one that needs adequate funding.

“Across the council, Catching Lives and Porchlight, there are staff out on the streets every day and they deserve a huge amount of thanks. They are continually supporting people, encouraging them to move into accommodation and helping them with the often complex health issues they face.

“Nobody wants to see a single person living on the streets or in a situation where they feel they have no option but to do so. The number of individuals that we have been able to take off the streets is proof of the incredibly hard work taking place to tackle this very difficult issue. That hard work must continue, so this funding will help that to happen and make a real difference to many people's lives.”

Published: 10th February 2020