Twelve sheltersuits – designed specifically for people who are living on the streets – have been delivered to Thanet.
The suits have a detachable sleeping bag, are wind and rain proofed, made from upcycled materials by people that have been formerly homeless.
The delivery was made to the New Life Family Church in Margate by Bas Timmer and colleague Tony from Sheltersuit who made the trip from the Netherlands.
The church raised the full amount to buy the suits in a fundraising day.
Christo Beukes, Chair of Trustees at NLFC, said: “NLFC has, in the past, helped with the homeless and rough sleepers in Thanet by bringing them into the church during the council’s SWEP (Severe Weather Emergency Protocol) period.
“This year we wanted to go the extra mile and make a real difference for those sleeping rough and try in some small way to help those on our own doorstep. The number of rough sleepers varies from day to day, so working with the council’s RISE team (Rough sleeper Intervention, Support and Empowerment) we were able to understand who and where they are.
“We can make a difference to those who would find it difficult sleeping rough this winter.”
Staff from the council’s RISE team will deliver the suits to those sleeping rough on the isle.
Housing and Homelessness Strategy
According to a new Housing and Homelessness Strategy by Thanet council’s housing team and deputy leader Helen Whitehead there were 17 people officially recorded as rough sleeping in Thanet this year. This figure does not include the ‘hidden homeless’ and those living in temporary accommodation,
All those who have been sleeping on the streets have now been offered a place at this year’s Thanet Winter Shelter, which provides beds, meals and help with addiction and housing services, throughout November – March.
According to the homelessness strategy aimed at tackling the issue over the next five years: “Whilst the numbers of rough sleeping in the district have steadily increased, direct intervention by multi-disciplinary professional services and government funding over the past year have helped to support rough sleepers off the streets.
“In order to maintain this position, continuous funding is needed to enable out-reach activity and provision of much needed accommodation. As of November 2019, 17 people were believed to be rough sleeping in the district.”
Funding to tackle rough sleeping
The council receives government funding for its homelessness service and following the introduction of the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017, the amount given to the council significantly increased.
Between 2017/18 and 2019/20, the council will have received £917,685 in Flexible Homelessness Support Grant as well as £328,387 new burdens funding. The council has increased the staff resources in the Housing Options team with four new posts created. However, an increase in emergency temporary accommodation placements has put finances under pressure and funding for some homelessness services is not guaranteed beyond March 2020.
Thanet council intends to lobby government for funding and to continue the work of RISE to get people back into accommodation.
The report says: “The number of people found rough sleeping has risen year on year across the whole Thanet. Our population of rough sleepers is made up of individuals who have a local connection to the Thanet and also those from wider Kent, UK and the European Union.
“Each of these individuals are unique with their own history of how they came to sleep rough and what resources and housing options are open to them in Thanet. Although the RISE team has made significant progress in supporting people into accommodation, new people moving onto the streets for the first time continues to rise.
“Rough sleepers with a local connection often have very complex needs (e.g. people with a triple diagnosis and/or a serious forensic history, couples and people with pets) and therefore need very sophisticated and personalised accommodation and support options.
“A major concern for our rough sleeping population is the level of substance misuse resulting in and being a response to both their physical and mental health needs.
“Those who are very entrenched in a street lifestyle can often be resistant to taking up offers of support (including health and substance abuse support) and accommodation options. These individuals can also contribute to notable levels of anti-social behaviour that negatively impacts on the community.
“Some clients with a local connection to Thanet are unwilling to access accommodation in other areas while others face the reality of the lack of specialist provision for people with dogs. There are a number of people who return to rough sleeping after a period of time in either temporary or long-term accommodation.
“We know that rough sleeping is harmful and dangerous for the individual. Recent studies indicate that the average life expectancy for a rough sleeper is 47 years.
“Thanet is fully committed to ending rough sleeping by preventing people sleeping rough for the first time and reducing the number of individuals currently sleeping on the streets. The council will work in line with the MHCLG’s aim to halve rough sleeping over the course of the Parliament (by 2022) and eliminate it altogether by 2027.
“The ambition is to ensure there is a route off the streets for every single rough sleeper in Thanet so that they are supported through to safe and secure accommodation as quickly and sustainably as possible.”
Thanet council will continue the use of specialist outreach workers to support rough sleepers with a focus on health and wellbeing to move people from the streets and into accommodation.
Staff are also working closely with other agencies so as to be able to offer information on a comprehensive range of services that help with problems that often cause homelessness or housing difficulties. This includes money advice, debt counselling, landlord and tenant mediation, specialist legal advice, help in accessing education and training, help in seeking work, access to child care and Children’s Centres.
Thanet council will update its Rough Sleeping Action Plan, join up services to intervene quicker and develop partnership plans to support people to stay in accommodation.
Staff aim to ensure early intervention with people at risk of rough sleeping, prioritising hospital discharges and prison leavers, put resources into street engagement, source additional funding to extend services for non priority clients and specialist supported accommodation provision for people previously rough sleeping.