Thanet council is facing a rapid growth in the number of people becoming homeless and predicts demand for accommodation will continue to grow due to rising rents, the cost of living crisis and courts clearing eviction notice backlogs.
For some people becoming homeless will mean being reliant on the council to provide temporary accommodation so they don’t end up sleeping rough or sofa surfing.
The council currently has 233 households in temporary accommodation and 135 of those have had to be housed outside of the district.
The impact of being removed from your home area and local support network, as well as school and work, can be devastating.
Mum-of-one Michelle Lane is one of those who has had to move away from Thanet after being evicted from her home in Margate.
Michelle and her seven-year-old son have been housed in a one-bed flat in Folkestone, more than 40 miles from the youngster’s school in Birchington and Michelle’s job working with people with mental health issues.
Michelle, 40, also suffers from Crohn’s, fibromyalgia and other debilitating conditions that make travel extremely difficult.
She said: “I have lived in Thanet for over 30 years and I worked in the care industry in Thanet helping people with mental health and substance abuse.
“But I am now under the mental health crisis team and unsure if I will be able to return to my job.
Michelle says her health is being impacted with these photos showing the change
“Last year I was given notice to quit as the landlord wanted his house back. I have no support as my parents died when I was pregnant in 2014. I’m a single mum and I just can’t afford the private rents so I went to the council.
“The council want me to rent privately but I can’t get back to work and I can’t afford those rent hikes.
“They have put me in Folkestone so I am 40 miles away from any support network, I don’t know anyone here and feel like I just don’t have a life.
“They are telling me I might have to stay in Folkestone for two or three years. I followed all the processes, but I just do not know where to go from here.
“Because of the Crohn’s it is really difficult to travel at the moment, I constantly need the toilet and am really poorly. My son has been staying with my sister and dad as I don’t want him to see me like this even though he is the only thing that keeps me sane.
“The flat has a really high fence and it’s like a prison. There is damp, my son has a cough and my clothes always need washing and there is no lock on the main door. I’m not allowed to bring in furniture or have wi-fi.
“I had to sign the acceptance, I had no choice, but being expected to share a bedroom with my son is surely a breach of human rights.
“I have never been in a situation like this. I have worked in the community for 20 years, helping people manage their mental health but now I need help no-one wants to know.
“I have contacted the MP Roger Gale and email (the housing director) at Thanet council every week. I’ve asked for transport to get my son to school but after 6 weeks there still isn’t a referral.
“I know lots of people are in this situation, not just me. All these professional services are supposed to be there to support people and they are not doing that.”
Thanet council recently opened a temporary accommodation site at Foy House in Margate which has eight one and two bedroom flats.
It is aiming to expand its temporary accommodation by taking on a second project with £2.22m earmarked to buy another building or land or new build property. This project has the potential for up to 10 homes.
The council has also bought the former Oasis refuge in Edgar Road, with the final tranche of funding from the Cliftonville intervention programme (Live Margate) with the intention of converting to a further 16 homes.
The property is to be used by the RISE homelessness service until March 2025 with the housing project planned to start on site for the conversion works in April 2025.
But currently demand outstrips available temporary accommodation on the isle.
‘We understand how disruptive it can be’
A Thanet council spokesperson said: “When we have accepted a homeless application and have a duty to provide temporary accommodation, we make every effort to ensure that this is provided within Thanet.
“When this is not possible we work to arrange accommodation back in the district as soon as possible, as we understand how disruptive it can be to have to move away from the support of family, friends, schools and work.
“Temporary accommodation is provided until the household is either successful in bidding for a social rented tenancy on our housing register, or finds an alternative private sector home.
“We have a high demand for housing assistance and only a limited amount of temporary accommodation available to us. We currently have 233 households in temporary accommodation, with 135 of these outside Thanet, though we make every effort to bring local households back to the district as soon as possible.
“We currently have 1604 applicants on our housing register. Demand for accommodation is high and we anticipate that it will continue to rise in the short term due to a range of factors including the cost of living crisis, rising costs in the private rented sector, and courts clearing their backlog of eviction notices.
“We will continue to work as hard as we can to support families and individuals with housing needs in our district.”
Deputy council leader Helen Whitehead said: “Setting up in house temporary accommodation to support residents to stay in area was a priority for our administration in terms of establishing Foy House, and continues to be a priority with our plans for establishment of further in house temporary housing.
“Our promise to deliver at least a hundred homes a year at genuinely affordable rent will also help to support residents into permanent accommodation, and reduce out of area placements. If contacted I am more than happy to support Ms. Lane, and Housing do all they can to bring individuals and families back into area.”
Thanet council Housing Team 01843 577277
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