Maidstone homelessness sees five-fold rise

Homelessness in Maidstone has risen five-fold since 2009, according to a council report.

The figures show nearly 200 people in the town do not have a regular roof over their head.

The Maidstone Day Centre said it has supported people living in cars while trying to hold down full time jobs, in the last 12 months.

The council attributed the rise to a change in government policy and the economic climate.

Tony, 48, who did not want to reveal his surname, said he had been living on the streets for just over a year.

'Financial climate'

He said: "The work I had through [an] agency finished, there was a delay in processing an application for housing benefit and my rent got in arrears and the landlord got me evicted.

"You go from having somewhere where you've got four walls, a door you can lock and a comfortable bed, to sleeping outside in the elements in all weathers."

John Littlemore, head of housing and community services at Maidstone Borough Council, attributed the rise in part to a change in approach by the government.

"But also significantly, nationally we're seeing the difficulties that have arisen from the financial climate that the country's been through and still experiencing, which has had an increase in homelessness," he said.

He said the authority had brought nearly 100 empty homes back into use, which has had a "significant impact".

Under the 2011 Localism Act, the council's duty to secure accommodation will end if a person accepts or refuses an offer in the private rental sector.

Maidstone Greens said they had been campaigning for the Conservative-led council to provide more support for homeless people and were pleased that the town's churches had stepped in to provide a winter night shelter.

They are now planning to sleep rough on 5 December to raise money for the shelter.

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