CEO’s Blog – 16/05/2017

Paying the Ultimate Price of Rough Sleeping (part 2)

My last blog was on the very sad subject of a rough sleeper in west Kent losing their life. I said at the time that:

“….. I suppose that sooner or later we hear about someone in our neighbourhood who has been hassled, attacked or as was the case earlier this month, has lost their life because they were forced to sleep rough”.

Fortunately this does not happen too often as although there is always the threat of violence (rough sleepers often sleep with their sleeping bag unzipped so they can flee from danger and not get trapped inside), violence and certainly loss of life is thankfully relatively rare.

It was with some shock therefore that I heard on BBC South East about the death of a second rough sleeper who was beaten up whilst sleeping in a tent in woods near Maidstone; the second in as many months. This was a 21 year old lad who was doing no harm to anyone.  One message left with flowers at the park said that the community was sad that they did not do more to help him.  That’s a touching thought and I pray that the person/people who left that WILL do something to help the next person who they know of who is sleeping rough.

Having said that, there is actually only a limited amount that can be done for homeless people as without anywhere to live, unfortunately they will continue to be in danger from harm. People like me have been banging on for years about the lack of available social and genuinely affordable housing and this won’t change any time soon.  In addition there is also a lack of supported accommodation such as The Bridge Trust provides, or emergency access (overnight) hostel accommodation (there is none in west Kent at all).

This lad was an adult, on his own and not considered any more vulnerable than any other rough sleeper so did not fall into the statutory definition of being in “priority need” and therefore had no access to accommodation from the local authority.

The Holy Grail is to prevent people being homeless in the first place – as with all things, prevention is better than cure, and the new Homelessness Reduction Act could help with that. However, at the end of the day we need more accommodation to allow people to get off the streets, out of sofa surfing and into safe and secure environments.  Unless this happens I will continue to fear the daily news telling me about yet another person who has come to some harm due to being homeless.