The Thanet Winter Shelter, which provides accommodation and services to rough sleepers during the winter months – has helped some 55 people into longer term homes following the latest scheme.
The Winter Shelter, which is now in its fifth year, had to be adapted due to COVID-19 and this year offered guests a 24/7 support hub in one central location in the district from November 2020 to March 2021.
In previous years, the shelter relied heavily on church hall donations and extensive volunteer staffing. It also moved locations and guests slept in one hall, which was not possible this year due to Public Health guidance restricting shared sleeping spaces.
With COVID-19 restrictions in place, Thanet council’s RISE homelessness team and its partners -including The Salvation Army, Forward Trust, Serveco and the NHS – were able to use the adapted scheme to house 76 people who would otherwise have been sleeping rough, giving them shelter, relief and support 24 hours a day.
This was a 32% increase of users compared to previous years and for the first time, guests were offered the exclusive use of a room to stay in and individual shower facilities, as well as hot meals and a warm and welcoming environment.
There were also opportunities for guests to take part in creative and recreation activities as well as bespoke trauma support to build self-esteem and life skills to help them take the first steps in ending their time living on the streets.
This year the the service had a new manager this year with Broadstairs mum-of-three Lauren Oates stepping into the role.
Lauren, who volunteered during the first lockdown helping people in need across Broadstairs and St Peter’s, said the changes to the shelter meant “an opportunity to create something positive out of the nightmare of covid.”
The 41-year-old’s previous involvement with the Lighthouse Project, run by Changing Minds Kent, during the first lockdown reignited her passion for close community involvement
Thanet Winter Shelter 2020/21 in numbers
76 people used the service between November and March
55 people were supported into substantive longer term accommodation – which they are all still in. This is more than any previous Winter Shelter since it began in 2017
34 people who were not previously able to register with a dentist, are now able to receive treatment
18 people were able to see a nurse
29 people were able to access a COVID-19 vaccination
8 people were able to see a chiropodist
11 received a haircut from a hairdresser
13 have now been registered to see an optician and have sight tests
52 have taken part in enrichment activities
3 have now found employment
Only 4 people returned to rough sleeping – despite offers of further support – which is lower than any other year.
Cllr Helen Whitehead, Cabinet Member for Housing, said: “This has been the Thanet Winter Shelter’s most successful year yet, despite it being one of the most challenging times the team has experienced, and are ever likely to again. The team has been able to provide an enhanced service over a 24/7 period and ultimately help more vulnerable rough sleepers than ever before.
“All guests were given bespoke multi-agency support plans to help them stand the best possible chance of maintaining long term accommodation and 55 have already been successful in that journey, which is more than in any previous year. I’m delighted that we continue to see such positive and life-changing results for some of the most vulnerable people in Thanet.
“It is also very positive that Thanet has received additional funding from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) to enable the shelter to stay open as the RISE Centre until the end of March 2022.”