The number of people verified as sleeping rough in Thanet has fallen by 50 per cent from 46 in 2017, to 23 in 2018.
The latest figures follow the annual rough sleeping count which took place between 4am and 7:30am yesterday (November 22).
The verified rough sleeper count only includes people bedding down on the street (in parks, churchyards etc) on one given night.
People using the Thanet Winter Shelter are not included in the rough sleeping count – that night there were 14 guests at the shelter,
It is in contrast to data released by national charity Shelter yesterday which published a table quoting the 2017 figure for Thanet.
Thanet council says the reduction in those sleeping on the streets is due to the introduction 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.
The count was undertaken by volunteers from Thanet District Council’s housing team alongside the Department for Work and Pensions, Kent Police, and Porchlight. Working in teams they attempted to engage with those bedding down in the streets.
While the numbers may be lower, council housing boss Bob Porter has acknowledged that homelessness on the isle seems to be more visible this year with a number of people living in tents in churchyards, parks and beaches.
Earlier this week (Monday 19 November) the award-winning Thanet Winter Shelter, now in its third year, opened its doors to continue its work of helping people to find accommodation so that they don’t return to the streets.
The shelter is run by the Salvation Army with support from the council and local churches. This year, thanks to additional council funding, the shelter is running for an extra month – until the end of March 2019.
The shelter, which provides at least 20 beds every night, 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.
The venue of the shelter moves each night and some locations have additional, emergency beds.
This year the Winter Shelter is also working closely with the RISE project whose workers will be supporting those who come to the shelter.
RISE will put personalised support plans in place so people can be helped to find long-term accommodation, while also addressing any barriers which have prevented them finding and keeping a home in the past.
There are approximately 1,500 volunteer spaces available across all nights during the shelter’s opening. Specialist volunteers, such as hairdressers and a chiropodist, have also signed up to offer their services. Anyone interested in volunteering can sign up here: http://thanetwintershelter.org/volunteer