‘Everyone is doing everything they can’: Councillors debate homelessness

PUBLISHED: 07:00 27 December 2018

Homelessness is on the rise in the borough. Picture: Yui Mok/PA Wire

Homelessness is on the rise in the borough. Picture: Yui Mok/PA Wire

PA Archive/PA Images

A county councillor has shared his outrage that there are more than 220 people sleeping rough in an “advanced society” like Kent.

Cllr Antony Hook (Lib Dem) questioned the county’s track record of protecting vulnerable people in the council chamber last week.

He asked the cabinet member in charge of public health what is being done to help those in need as the latest figures show homelessness is on the rise.

Cllr Hook said: “Homelessness is not acceptable in a society as advanced as ours.

“Kent County Council talk about making sure the roads are still going when the weather is colder but there are people living out there.

“I’m lucky to have relatives and family nearby who can help me but other people don’t have that.”

The representative for Faversham believes more should be done to protect these people who end up on the streets in the freezing cold.

He said: “Solving this problem would be good for the rough sleepers but also society in general.

“Seeing people on the streets doesn’t make our towns feel very welcoming and can be intimidating for people.”

However he claims a hindrance to helping is a belief these people want to be homeless.

He said: “I think it’s completely wrong for people to dismiss rough sleepers because they think they choose to be on the streets; even if they did we should help them make better decisions.

“I don’t believe any rational person would ever choose to live that way unless they were in trouble or trying to escape something.

“People end up homeless for many different reasons and have many different problems.

“It may be because they are a victim of human trafficking or have alcohol or drug addicitions or they lost their job.”

However a spokesperson for homeless charity Porchlight says councils are doing the best they can with the budget available.

Chris Thomas said: “I think it’s important to note everyone is doing everything they can to help people but Government funding cuts mean that everyone has less money.

“We are all trying to do more with less resources.”

Cabinet member for public health Cllr Graham Gibbens says KCC is investing more than £20m over the next four years to homeless charities so “vulnerable residents in Kent can recover from homelessness and go on to live settled, independent and successful lives”.

At the full council meeting on December 13, Cllr Gibbens said: “The council has worked closely with the districts and boroughs in bringing its aspiration for this service to fruition.

“In some areas of Kent, these authorities can report that there are no families in bed and breakfast and that for some, the use of temporary accommodation has fallen as homelessness has successfully been prevented.

“The county council will continue to play an active role, support and collaborating with the housing authorities and other public sector organisations such as health, Kent Police and probation ensure that we work together to tackle this challenging area.”

In the summer, the Government announced their intention to half rough sleeping by 2022 and end it by 2027.

Cllr Gibbens added Canterbury, Maidstone, Thanet and Tunbridge Wells secured around £1.4m of central-government funding due to these plans.

Following an announcement by communities minister James Brokenshire MP of another £11m pledged to meet this target, the councils are launching bids to bring some of this to Kent.

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