New ways to tackle homelessness

10 October 2019

World Homeless Day is a time to raise awareness of the growing issue of homelessness and the work that’s going on to try and solve it.

Homelessness continues to be a major issue across Kent. In the past six months, we have been aware of:

  • Over 400 people who have slept rough on Kent’s street
  • Nearly 250 people in Kent who have been forced to sofa surf
  • More than 550 people in Kent who are in danger of becoming homeless.

Although homelessness services have benefited from extra central government funding in recent months, money alone won’t solve the homelessness crisis. 

Helping people to overcome the emotionally damaging effects of rough sleeping and rebuild their lives is not a quick process and if we’re to end homelessness, we must find new ways of helping those who need it the most. To do this, we’ve launched a series of new initiatives.

Housing First

Poor mental health is both a cause and effect of homelessness. One in three rough sleepers we’re aware of have a long-term mental health issue. Those with the most complex needs can struggle to engage with typical homelessness services. To help them, we’ve introduced Housing First to Kent.

The Housing First scheme is about moving rough sleepers straight into a home of their own instead of a homeless hostel. It’s about giving them a giving a sense of ownership, empowerment and letting them crate somewhere they feel safe and secure. At the same time, we will help them address other issues they are facing such as mental ill health or addiction.

We currently have Housing First properties in Maidstone and are aiming to introduce the scheme to other parts of Kent.

The Housing First approach to tackling homelessness has had a dramatic effect in other countries and has virtually eliminated rough sleeping in Finland.

Specialist support for homeless women

Kent has one of the highest percentages of women sleeping rough in the country. Shockingly, one in five rough sleepers in Kent is a woman.

Women are particularly vulnerable on the streets. They live in fear of being attacked, exploited or worse. Many stay hidden and are less visible than men, meaning opportunities to help them are being missed.

Porchlight is aiming to change this by developing support services specifically for homeless women.

These include recruiting specialist street outreach workers to help female rough sleepers off the streets and creating a women’s services development post within the organisation to develop this support.

Working together to end homelessness

Homelessness is a massive issue. To really make a difference it’s important that councils, homelessness charities, and substance misuse and mental health services work closely together.

The government’s austerity measures are stretching all of our services to breaking point so we must pool the resources we have if we’re to make any impact.

One way we’re doing this is with Kent Homeless Connect - a network of specialist services that prevents vulnerable people from losing their homes and houses people who are on the streets. It is led by Porchlight and Look Ahead on behalf of Kent County Council.

Porchlight is also hosting a conference about tackling homelessness in Kent on World Homeless Day. It will bring together professionals from the housing sector, business and church leaders, local authority representatives and academics to share ideas and swap expertise.

We believe that we’re able to make a difference here in Kent. But to do so we’ll need the support of central government - strategic and sustained investment in homelessness services and the political will to address the drastic loss of social housing.