Under the umbrella of the Rainbow Centre working with Churches Together in Folkestone, the Winter Shelter will open its doors to the homeless on Monday December 3rd and will remain open until the 24th February 2019. It offers emergency accommodation for up to thirteen guests over the coldest months of the year. Seven churches in the town each host one evening in the week providing a hot meal and a bed to some of the most vulnerable members of our community.
However, homelessness is not a new issue in our district, as the article below – published 37 years ago in the South Kent Gazette Jan 1981 – makes clear. Thankfully though there is now a winter shelter manned by wonderful volunteers.
According to data released by Shelter in Nov 2018, there are approximately 3,600 people either in temporary accommodation or rough sleeping in the 12 districts of Kent.
These figures are more likely than not an underestimate of the true situation. They do not account for the rise in rural homelessness either; which to is likely to be underestimated.
Meanwhile, thousands of long term empty homes across the 12 districts of Kent remain empty and unused. If the figures produced by Kentonline in their story last week “Thousands of empty homes across Kent and Medway“ are true (they do not provide a source for their figures) , then the number of long term empty homes across the 12 districts; which make up Kent, has grown by 1,051 homes in less than a year. This, if Kentonline’s figures are true, is a catastrophic tragedy. If these properties were brought back into use, they could reduce the homeless and temporary accommodation figures significantly.
Only two districts show a decline in bringing properties back into use, Shepway – now Folkestone & Hythe District Council and Tunbridge Wells, the other ten districts have all seen substantial rises in the number of long term empty properties. What astounds us, more than anything are the figures for Canterbury, which is the spiritual home of the Church of England, has seen a 45% increase of long term empty properties. What would our former oil industry man and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby say about that?
These homes could and should all be brought back into use and used to house those who need them, not just the homeless. It is a tragedy so many homes sit idle, when each and every one of them could be put to use. Meanwhile the numbers of homeless or those in temporary accommodation continues to rise across our districts.
It is not just the Winter Shelter who give shelter to those less fortunate. Up the road in Dover is Emmaus, a homelessness charity who offer a home and work to 27 formerly homeless people in the old Archcliffe Fort community building (pictured below), giving them a safe place to live for as long as they need it.
There are solutions, ones which are affordable and within the reach of all our Councils. Brighton Housing Trust opened 36 containers as self-contained studio flats in bid to help the city’s homeless for the Xmas of 2013, it is something we believe our Councils could do together, this would assist the homeless, as “every little helps“
Finally, we would like to mention the volunteers, those who give up their time to help those less fortunate in our communities. They move quietly amongst us, not seeking fame or fortune, nor applause or award, they are remarkable people each and every one of them. We, the Shepwayvox Team and no doubt you to would like to thank each of them for doing what they do, they are truly wonderful people – Thank you for helping those less fortunate.
The Shepwayvox Team – Journalism for the People NOT the Powerful