It’s impossible to spend any stretch of time outside at the moment without noticing two things: the rain and the seemingly unstinting rise in rough sleepers across our county. Winter is always the hardest period for rough sleepers because of the climate and the post-Christmas dip in generosity towards anyone begging. And there’s a genuine risk to life for anyone having to sleep out as temperatures plummet.
Each autumn across the country, councils send teams of volunteers to conduct night-time counts of all the rough sleepers in the their districts to assess how acute the problem is.
Estimates, akin to a local census, are typically agreed by agencies who work closely with rough sleepers across the district all year, whereas street counts are one-night snapshots. Snapshots do not truly reflect the real problems of homelessness per se.
The number of Rough Sleepers in Folkestone & Hythe has fluctuated as the chart below shows. Many local agencies who work in the homelessness sector consider the numbers to be an underestimate. This year, 2019, when the count was done in Folkestone & Hythe the number of rough sleepers was 10.
The figures in the chart above are desperately disappointing, as is the image below taken in the summer of 2019.
Rough Sleepers in 2017 & 2018 across our district most frequently reported support need was mental health. Other reported issues (in no particular order) were: relationship breakdown, domestic violence, financial issues, welfare reforms, release from hospital, housing conditions, to name a few. A similar message was echoed across most of the other districts as well.
Our Council, Folkestone & Hythe District Council Public Space Protection Order 2019 -2022 came into force on Friday 21 June 2019 for a period of 3 years. It strictly prohibits rough sleepers using Brighthouse, Boots, Clarks or any other suitable door way in Folkestone, or elsewhere across the district. This is because rough sleepers needs to obtain “prior express consent of the owner or person in lawful control of the land“. Good luck with the offshores.
We know it is incredibly hard to get off the streets once you begin sleeping rough, but for our local Conservative Council to hinder any progress, with a potential £1,000 fine if found guilty, just makes things harder unnecessarily.
The governments of the last eight years have each behaved as though homeless people appear from nowhere. Every rough sleeper is the product of political decisions, as the alleged safety net our parliamentarians have built is riddled with gaping holes. No one wants to sleep outdoors in sub-zero temperatures, but far too many will in our district, our county and our country.
The answer to resolving this mess is quite simple. We need more truly affordable housing. More resources for mental health. Better resources for domestic violence and more financial security, as a growing number of people in the district, the county and the country are just one pay cheque away from losing their homes because they cannot pay the rent.
We would like to mention Pam Jones (pictured), whose compassion and empathy for others less fortunate continues to astonish. Her love, her dedication to help those in need, is a shining beacon for us all, something to aspire to in the new year. Thank you Pam.
And finally, we’d like to say thank you to all the Pam’s who help the homeless across our district and county. Those who volunteer in the foodbanks, the winter shelters, porchlight and the churches. Thanks to each of you for having a fantastic moral compass and helping those less fortunate. Merry Xmas.
The Shepwayvox Team
Dissent is NOT a Crime