Kingston homeless charity highlights need for year-round support

Kingston charity Kingston Churches Action on Homelessness (KCAH) has highlighted the need for support to continue all year round, not just at Christmas.

The charity said that community support will most be needed during the quieter months in 2021, a year which will likely see further challenges for Kingston’s charity sector.

“It will be those fallow periods during the year where we’re most in need, whereas Christmas is a really busy time,” said Matt Hatton, chief executive officer at KCAH, one of the borough’s leading homeless charities.

The charity has been “constantly amazed” at the level community support it has received through Covid and is confident it now has enough physical items for rough sleepers, such as sleeping bags and socks, to last through the Christmas period.

“We’re really enriched by the people that are already coming to us wanting to do something for Christmas so I feel secure that we will have all the physical items that we need,” Hatton said.

“It’s actually what happens beyond Christmas, so that that Christmas feeling of charity and goodwill takes place throughout the year.”

Like many other charities, KCAH has been kept incredibly busy throughout the pandemic.

Now it is focused on getting through the winter and moving people on from the hotels they were placed in when the pandemic began.

“We’re focusing on working with the [Kingston] council and with SPEAR, another homeless charity, to move people from the hotels that they’re in.

“They were placed in hotels through the ‘Everyone In’ government-directed scheme from March, and now the work being done is to place them into supported accommodation,” Hatton said.

£1.5m funding boost will help move rough sleepers into accommodation

Last month, Kingston Council announced it had secured £1.5m in government funding to provide accommodation and ongoing support to more than 60 rough sleepers in the borough, with 20 already moved into houses and flats.

“We have worked hard to ensure rough sleepers were found safe accommodation during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Our staff and partners have supported some of the most vulnerable people in Kingston,” said Emily Davey, portfolio holder for housing at Kingston Council.

The need for support for people who are sleeping rough in the borough has been made particularly stark over recent weeks, after two men with connections to Kingston died within little over a week of each other.

The first man was found dead outside Tesco Express in Kingston town centre on November 11. The second man took his own life in Chiswick on November 19.

Despite the UK officially entering a recession, KCAH is yet to see an increase in people needing to use its services.

However, the charity is concerned that there could be a rise in rough sleeping after the furlough scheme ends next spring and the ban on forced evictions is lifted on January 25.

“There’s a shortage of housing and housing options so we’re aware that we could see a rise in rough sleeping because of people losing their jobs, and then losing their accommodation, and then becoming homeless that way,” Hatton said.

Sustainable funding plan needed to combat potential increase in rough sleeping in 2021

Sustainable funding is needed to manage this potential rise. While Hatton welcomed the funding Kingston Council received from central government, he said a long-term plan is needed from the government to enable KCAH to plan for the future.

“What I’d be looking for is a five-year plan rather than funding which is only until the end of the financial year and then we could be facing another cliff edge,” he said.

Hatton said the charity does not want to be overly dependent on government funding in case it stops.

However, an economic downturn could spell trouble for KCAH in terms of other funding bases, too.

“I don’t know where the funding is going to be coming from in two years time and our funding is very dependent on the health of the local community.

“Whether that’s the churches and the schools and the local businesses, and if they’re all struggling then our funding base goes down as well,” he said.

Despite the challenges, KCAH is still urging anyone who is in a housing crisis to make contact so they can work on a solution.

“What we do want is people who are in housing crisis to come to KCAH because we need to start up that relationship with them, look at whether there are alternative options where we can get them off the streets,” Hatton said.

While the charity’s winter night shelter, which usually provides shelter for up to 30 people, has had to close due to Covid restrictions, it is working with the council to find alternative options.

“We’re constantly looking at every route, if there’s any opportunity to get people off the streets.”

If you are experiencing a housing crisis and need support, find out how KCAH can support you here.

You can donate to KCAH’s ‘In For Good’ campaign here.

If you are in a crisis and need someone to speak to, Samaritans is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Call free on 116 123, email them at jo@samaritans.org or visit www.samaritans.org for more information.

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