People sleeping rough in Thanet will have the opportunity to get a bed, meals, showers and their washing done when the Thanet Winter Shelter scheme opens up on Monday (November 19).
The award-winning scheme, now in its third year, will provide at least 20 beds every night from Monday until the end of March 2019 at churches across the isle. Some venues will have additional, emergency spaces.
The shelter involves church halls opening their doors to those sleeping on the street to offer a bed, clothes and food. A key aim of the Shelter is to better equip guests to help them secure and retain longer-term accommodation and to provide practical pathways for training and employment.
Unique to Thanet’s Winter Shelter is engaging with Kent’s Mental Health practitioners to ensure guests are referred to the most appropriate primary care/charity sector services for their needs.
This week 25 people were assessed in readiness for the scheme so it will be near capacity from the beginning.
The aim, says Thanet council’s Housing Options manager Victoria May, is to help as many individuals as possible to deal with issues and get into accommodation while the shelter is still running so a further number of people can then ‘flow through.’
She said: “We want to start working with them and look at ways into housing so they are not reliant on the shelter throughout the whole period. That way we can get a flow through of people.”
On our streets
The most recent rough sleeper count for Thanet shows that there has actually been a decline since the beginning of last month.
On October 3 some 40 people were recorded as living on the street. This month Thanet council is aware of 16 people permanently sleeping rough and another 16 who are ‘transient’- sometimes sleeping on the street and sometimes sofa surfing.
Council housing boss Bob Porter said: “It is hard to know exactly but on any one night there might be between 20 and 32 people sleeping rough, about a third lower than last year.”
While the numbers may be lower, homelessness on the isle seems to be more visible this year with a number of people living in tents in churchyards, parks and beaches.
But there are now more resources being put into helping those people following a £367,322 grant from the Ministry of Housing with a further £483,770 expected next year.
The cash was received in July and Thanet council hit the ground running with the creation of the RISE team – Rough sleeper Intervention, Support and Empowerment – which has three outreach workers and a dedicated worker for mental health and another for drug and alcohol addiction.
Thirteen households have already been put into accommodation and a seven bedroom living unit has been set up specifically to cater for women sleeping rough.
Research by Shelter revealed Thanet as in the top ten areas with the highest number of female rough sleepers. Eleven women were recorded as sleeping on the street in Thanet last year.
Mrs May said: “Sometimes they are rough sleeping because of challenging relationships so there still needs to be intervention work to establish what they want and need.
“The rooms are in a supported environment as they may not quite have the skills for private rented accommodation without in-reach and may still be dealing with issues such as drug and alcohol addiction.”
Cabinet member for housing Lesley Game said: “The RISE team is invaluable. They know who all the rough sleepers are, where they are and are in constant contact. They go out early in the morning and in the evenings to make sure people are ok and to work with them.”
This year’s shelter
The RISE team will be accessible to those people using the winter shelter this year. There will also be specialist volunteers, such as hairdressers and a chiropodist, on hand.
In all approximately 1,500 volunteer spaces are available across the four month scheme, with more than 100 people already signed up.
Mr Porter says the target this year is for every single person who uses the shelter to be in accommodation when the scheme ends in March.
He said: “What has really set this project apart in previous years is how successful it has been in helping people into accommodation rather than them just going back on the street when it ends.
“This year we want a similar outcome, ideally with no people going back onto the street when it ends in March.”
That is an aim echoed by Shelter manager Roarke Alexander, who said: ”This year my hope is that we don’t just provide shelter but we provide a halfway house. We don’t want anyone to have to return back to the streets, that’s my goal!”
The shelter scheme will be at St Paul’s Church in Cliftonville on November 19 and St George’s Church hall in Ramsgate on Tuesday (November 20). Businesswoman Raushan Ara has organised a pamper and curry night for those that attend on Tuesday.
She said: “Shower facilities and laundry are now available at St George’s Church hall and on Tuesday I am organising a pampering day for homeless people followed by a special curry night.
“ I welcome help with , hair/beard trimming and volunteering in any capacity. Donations of toiletries and food including, chicken, rice, oil, spices are also welcome.”
Raushan will provide a curry night every Tuesday for the duration of the shelter
Anyone interested in volunteering for Thanet Winter Shelter can sign up at http://thanetwintershelter.org/volunteer
To make the RISE team aware of anyone rough sleeping email Roughsleeping@thanet.gov.uk or call Porchlight on 0800 567 7699 or from a mobile on 0300 365 7699.
Masque Theatre School in Ramsgate is asking for donations of coats for those who will be on the streets this winter. Anyone wishing to donate can drop them to Masque Theatre School First Floor, Old Church Building, Meeting Street Ramsgate CT11 9RT
It’s the theatre school’s second year of collecting coats for the homeless. Last year they collected around 100 coats as well as a few sleeping bags. They will all be donated to local homeless charities for distribution.