The number of people sleeping on the streets of the district has fallen, according to the latest street count.
At this year’s count, carried out between 10pm on Thursday 22 November and 2am on Friday 23 November, 33 rough sleepers were identified – 16 seen on the night plus another 17 known about by the various agencies involved but who were not seen during the count.
Last year, 36 rough sleepers were found on the night with a further 37 known about by those involved, giving a total of 73.
The count was carried out by Canterbury City Council housing officers, key homeless charities Catching Lives and Porchlight, the Salvation Army, Kent Police and officials from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG).
Before the count, an intelligence meeting was held to identify potential hotspots, although the count was not confined to those.
Vice Chairman of the city council’s Community Committee, Cllr Joe Howes, said: “Everyone recognises having one rough sleeper on our streets is one too many and there is still an incredible amount of work to do.
“In the past year, enormous efforts have gone into solving this problem by Catching Lives, Porchlight, the city council and MHCLG working together to make the most of the public’s donations and an injection of government cash after two successful bids by the city council totalling £550,000.
“This combination of funding is making a real difference to the lives of our most vulnerable people and we cannot afford for it to dry up now. Public donations to Catching Lives and Porchlight will help us to maintain this momentum.”
The cash from the government has helped Catching Lives extend its winter shelter for an extra three months. This year it is running from October to March, instead of the usual December to February, with the other three months funded from donations from the public, businesses and charitable trusts, as well as by the city council.
The shelter provides rough sleepers with an evening meal and a bed for the night. On the night of the count, 15 people were staying there.
One of its key aims is to work with the clients who access the service to stop them returning to the street, by trying to tackle mental health problems, physical health problems, drug and alcohol problems, arranging benefits and securing accommodation.
As well as paying for the increase in the winter shelter, the money secured from the MHCLG will pay for a variety of other projects.
This includes the recent recruitment of a full time Street Population Coordinator at the council, Daniel Gould. He and colleagues from Catching Lives and Porchlight are out and about on the streets every day, talking to rough sleepers, understanding the issues they each face and developing individual support plans for each of them.
It will also pay for an expansion of the council’s Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP), which kicks in during times of extreme cold.
As well as more discretion to consider implementing it at times when the weather may not be classed as severe, it will also be in place for longer after the inclement weather ends, providing more time to work with people to prevent them going back on the street.
And it will pay for three extra outreach workers for Catching Lives and Porchlight to include the coastal towns and villages.
Terry Gore, General Manager at Catching Lives, said: “It’s definitely a step in the right direction but there’s still a lot more to be done. As an independent charity we rely on the contributions and volunteer support from the broader Canterbury community. It’s all of us working together that’s turning this tide.”
Chris Burgess, Porchlight’s Head of Homelessness Services, said: “This extra funding has enabled us to put more resources into supporting some of the most vulnerable people in our society. Everyone has been working incredibly hard to ensure we tackle this desperate crisis. Working together, we’ve been able to get more people in from the cold and will continue supporting those who are yet to be housed.
“Of course, it’s important this support is more than just providing temporary shelter. We must help people overcome the complex problems often associated with homelessness and find them somewhere permanent to live, however long it takes.”
Anyone concerned about someone sleeping rough can contact StreetLink or call 0300 500 0914.
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