Homelessness in Kent up by 25% in a year - Porchlight

A Kent homeless charity has reported a rise of nearly 25% in a year in the number of people asking for assistance.

Canterbury-based Porchlight said it was approached by 890 people seeking help with finding somewhere to live in 2010, compared to 714 the year before.

The charity said it was expecting the rise to continue due to a shortage of suitable rented accommodation.

Mike Barrett, chief executive, said many of those seeking help were "sofa surfing" or staying with friends.

"There are many, many people in that position, and that's going to get worse as the welfare benefit reforms bite," he said.

The charity runs an outreach service, which provides support to people who are homeless or are at risk of being homeless across Kent.

Mr Barrett said it was facing a drop in its funding due to the county council's budget cuts.

'Steady increase'

"The impacts are not being risk-assessed at all because it's just not those cuts, it's the impact of the welfare benefit reforms, the shortage of accommodation - supported and private-rented - and social housing which have come together to create this absolute nightmare."

He said Porchlight had seen "a steady increase since last summer" in the number of people seeking help, which he could not see improving.

"Employment is not out there," he said.

"What is out there is low-paid employment so people are not able to match the needs of their landlords in terms of their rent, so it's a problem. It's a nightmare waiting to happen."

In a statement, Mike Hill, Kent County Council's cabinet member for customer and communities, said it was looking at how services for homeless people might be provided in the future, and talking to Porchlight.

"There are no plans to change levels of funding for those organisations that are currently providing these services," he said.

"We have offered them a chance to put forward their own proposals to continue this important work with homeless people while still responding to the need to make savings, like all public sector organisations."

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