Kent homeless speak out amidst rise in rough sleepers across UK

Two young people from Kent have come forward about their experience of being homeless, following the report of a 134% rise in rough sleepers across the UK.

The damning report by the National Audit Office comes soon after figures showed the numbers in Kent are already at an all-time high – between 1 April 2016 and 31 March 2017 over 700 people were found to be on the streets, according to homeless charity Porchlight.

Michael King, 21, was homeless for six months last year after his mum kicked him out for failing to pay the rent.

He said: “It was a really depressing time. There were moments I was so depressed I tried taking my life a few times. It was awful.

“It was cold nights, especially around Christmas. Once or twice I spent a night in hospital just to try and keep warm. Trying to get food and making sure I’ve got things I needed was a struggle. I try not to think about it”.

Despite suffering from learning and physical disabilities, Michael found it difficult to receive help for housing from the council.

“I went through being told that I couldn’t be helped for housing even though I had a disability as they are meant to help. I’ve been told that I was lying about being homeless and they wanted proof about it.

“I was told it was my own fault that I was homeless even though I couldn’t afford the rent no matter what. It was terrible.”

Michael now lives in shared accommodation in Chatham.

Howard Doe, Deputy Leader and Portfolio Holder for Housing & Community Services, Medway Council said a new prevention strategy was launched to reduce the number of people who are homeless.

He said: “We are working with a number of charities and volunteers to provide shelter during the cold weather and we are also contributing resources to a hub that will offer a range of options to rough sleepers and single homeless people”.

“The council also has a severe weather protocol that will be put in place when weather is exceptionally cold.”

Charlie Taylor, 20, a resident at charity Porchlight in Canterbury, became homeless in March 2016 after his landlord forced him and his mum out without any explanation.

He said: “He just wanted his house back, that’s all he told us. I think he wanted to sell it. He didn’t offer any support.

Charlie’s dad died when he was 14 and said, “That’s when everything went downhill”.

“I didn’t move to Porchlight until June. It was tough. I had good friends and family who supported me at the time. I often had a roof over my head, but it was tough.

“I have a brother who has mental health issues. I have a girlfriend and a baby, but I live by myself in Porchlight”.

He spent two months sofa surfing at his friends’ houses, before moving to Porchlight in June.

Charity Porchlight said they were concerned by the recent statistics.

Chris Thomas, Communications coordinator, said: “This frightening increase has been caused by two things – ferocious welfare cuts aimed at poor and vulnerable people, and the irresponsible housing policies of successive governments over the past 30 years.

“It’s now commonplace to see people living and sleeping on the streets. It appears to have become an accepted part of the austerity measure.”