It is difficult to say how many homeless people there are in Medway & Kent. Once a year a rough sleeper count is undertaken by each local authority, but this really doesn’t reflect the true picture of homelessness, because many homeless people don’t spend every night on the street. They will stay with friends and family for as long as possible, but unfortunately there are often a number of reasons why this can’t be a long term solution.
Local authorities only have to house people who become unintentionally homeless and are in specific “priority need” groups, so they are not able to support everyone who becomes homeless and as a result there are many people who “fall through the net”. These homeless people will often become even more vulnerable as a result of not receiving support; they may turn to crime or substance abuse simply to get themselves through the day.
This is where Pathways and organisations like us can help. We provide supported housing for vulnerable people, so that they can work through the problems that have prevented them from securing a permanent home. Places in Pathway’s accommodation projects are allocated on the basis that a homeless individual has support needs that they are willing to address.
More young people are using our services
At the moment we are seeing a growing trend towards younger people using our services. We believe that this is partially due to an increase in areas such as mental or physical health problems, drug and alcohol problems, crime and financial problems caused by benefits reductions and tougher sanctions. Since 2011 high unemployment amongst young people and entitlement to welfare benefits have had an impact on organisations like Pathways.
Welfare Benefits have undergone some major changes such as the under 35 rules for Housing Benefit, which state if you are aged under 35 and rent from a private landlord, the maximum housing benefit you can get is the same as the rate you would get for renting a single room in a shared house. This rule is known as the shared accommodation rate and applies to people who make new claims for housing benefit.
In addition to this sanctions on benefits such as jobseekers allowance and employment and support allowance mean that often people are going from anywhere between 4 weeks to 13 weeks without benefit. In more serious cases a sanction can last up to 3 years. Appealing such sanctions can sometimes be a lengthy process and whilst this is going on young people may struggle to keep up with payments, getting further into debt and are at risk of losing their home.
In other cases families who may have lost their homes due to the under occupancy rules or ‘bedroom tax’ as it has become known may have to split up and a young adult may need to find their own accommodation.