Terry (not his real name) is a rough sleeper. It was his hand that first drew him to our attention. He was missing two fingers. Frostbite the winter of 2015, he told us. He climbed out of his sleeping bag and took of his left shoe and sock. He was missing three toes. In the winter of 2015 Terry was discovered unconscious with hypothermia and spent three months in hospital. Upon his release he returned to the streets to sleep rough. In his time on the streets across East Kent Terry has been urinated on, assaulted and verbally abused by members of the public. Terry is only 37 but looked more like 57, weathered and beaten.
The average life expectancy for the general population is 77, for a male rough sleeper it’s 47 – for a woman, 43.
In 2012/13 the numbers for the whole of Kent stood at 148, and last year 16/17 the total was 384.
Shepway District Cllr Alan Ewart James (pictured), is the Cabinet Member for Housing and his remit covers rough sleepers, such as Terry. Estimates for Rough Sleepers are taken on a single, typical night (usually a Wednesday) between Oct 1 and 30 Nov. The next count that Shepway District Council will be involved in with other agencies, takes place on Wednesday 22 Nov 2017, between midnight and five am.
The Figures for rough sleepers in Shepway have varied between 2010 – 2016 as the chart below shows
Since 2010, the figures used for national statistics have used this definition of rough sleeping:
People sleeping, about to bed down (sitting on/in or standing next to their bedding) or actually bedded down in the open air (such as on the streets, in tents, doorways, parks, bus shelters or encampments). People in buildings or other places not designed for habitation (such as stairwells, barns, sheds, car parks, cars, derelict boats, stations, or “bashes”).
The definition doesn’t include; people in hostels or shelters, sofa surfers, people in campsites or other sites used for recreational purposes or organised protest, squatters or Travellers.
It is widely recognised that the counts do not reflect the full extent of rough sleeping. Count staff may not locate rough sleepers who have hidden themselves in disused buildings or stayed in areas away from those covered by the count, such as rural areas. To avoid any double counting, people who are not actually sleeping at the time of the count are not included in the figures, even if it is likely that they will go on to spend the night sleeping rough.
At Full Council on the 27th Sept, a member of the public – Mr Jackman – put the following question to Cllr David Monk
With the increasing rise of homelessness in Shepway and with the unfair treatment of the homeless since Public Spaces Protection Order was implemented in 2015, would council members be willing to come and show their support and an understanding of what it’s like to be homeless by joining members of the public at The Big Sleep Out?
Of course not a single District Councillor took up Mr Jackman’s request. In fact only one Cllr took part in the Big Sleep out along with representatives from local scout groups, church groups, and individuals from the wider community in Folkestone took part, raising in excess of £4,000 for the Winter Shelter.
The solitary Cllr who took part was Folkestone Town Cllr Jacqui Meade (Lab) pictured below.
Cllr Meade said she was shocked by the amount of Homelessness and that just this Thursday gone (2nd Nov) she had spoken to a rough sleeper who had recently been released from Hospital; after suffering a broken hip, and had no home to go to. Cllr Meade set out to the rough sleeper what they could do, and named the services which could assist them.
People become homeless for a variety of reasons – such as family breakdowns, addictions, mental health issues and is well evidence in the Seeds of Exclusion report, commissioned by the Salvation Army and undertaken by the Universities of Kent and Cardiff.
According to Porchlight a Kent based charity who work with the homeless, Homelessness is on the rise again in Kent as a whole.
This winter, as per the last seven winters, the Folkestone Winter Shelter will throw open its doors, to house the homeless across the darkest and coldest nights of the year. The Winter Shelter is looking for volunteers once again to help man the seven venues they use across Folkestone to help people like Terry. If this is something which interests you can can contact them and offer your services by contacting Sarah Elliot at:
The Shepwayvox Team