With temperatures plummeting and daylight hours receding, we all take to the comfort of our homes in winter. But what about those who don’t have a home, or even somewhere to stay warm and dry?
Following the drop in temperatures this weekend, Medway Council encouraged rough sleepers to head to Kingsley House in Balmoral Road, Gillingham for emergency accommodation. But the plight of those sleeping rough cannot be ignored. At the end of 2016, Homeless.org.uk published statistics indicating that the South East region has the second highest number of people sleeping rough in England. 956 people in the South-East were recorded, which was an increase of 16% from 2015. This year it is estimated that more than 1,000 people in Medway alone are homeless, the number of which sleep rough is currently unknown. As if this wasn’t horrendous enough, the BBC recently reported on an increase in the number of rough sleepers in Kent being ‘attacked’, with one horror story of one woman’s tent being set on fire while she was inside.
While Medway Council do their best best to house the homeless, there are undoubtedly some people who will still be sleeping on the streets this winter. Coming to their rescue are some incredibly hard working charities who work tirelessly to help those sleeping rough. Whether it’s warm clothes, a hot meal, or even a bed for the night, the Medway towns are incredibly fortunate to have the help of many volunteers who bring clothing, nourishment, care and company to the homeless.
First are the team of Street Angels that are working magic for the homeless this winter. Amongst other services, the team at Medway Street Angels run soup kitchens in Chatham and Maidstone, serving hot meals to those who need them. Donations to help them keep the homeless keep warm, clothed, fed and as safe as possible, are always gratefully received, as they continue to give up their time to help those less fortunate.
The volunteers who run Medway Help for Homeless are focussed on the Gillingham area and have successfully found shelter for several homeless people this year. They are always keen to receive donations of sleeping bags, warm clothes, toiletries and tinned food.
Medway Winter Night Shelter are close to my heart since I helped to raise over £700 for them through the Medway Property Vault networking group. Run by Medway churches and the Strood Community Project, in 2016 the shelter provided beds and food for a wide variety of people including a lady recently released from prison, a young teenage boy and a disabled wheelchair user. The team are always looking for volunteers to give up their time and help the team continue their excellent work.
Despite all their efforts there are still too many people sleeping rough. The lack of affordable housing in comparison to the growing population is a contributing factor to many people becoming homeless, and something I discuss regularly. Social housing plays a key role in the solution, particularly as there are believed to be over 20,000 people still on the social housing waiting list at Medway Council. But I also believe this could be reduced by property investors increasing the number of HMO (houses in multiple occupancy) that offer quality accommodation at a reasonable price. Single rooms let in a shared house with communal facilities, are genuinely a viable option for those looking for affordable housing.
At Home-Share we only let to the working professional and student market. By increasing the supply of quality rooms available to good quality tenants, we are freeing up other properties to be used by social housing and therefore reduce the burden on the homeless.
I’d like to finish the post this week by thanking all of the charities who support the homeless in our communities. Without them, more people would die from the effects of freezing temperatures this winter. I would also like to thank everyone who attended the Property Vault Medway earlier this year, where we raised over £700 for the Medway Winter Night Shelter.