Medway is one of four councils in the county which has successfully secured joint funding from central government to further support its work to help rough sleepers.
Almost half of all rough sleepers in the county have an offending history and around 50 per cent of prisoners in Kent have no accommodation to go to when they are released.
These concerning statistics were the driving force behind a funding bid by four Kent councils – Canterbury, Maidstone, Medway and Thanet. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has jointly awarded £314,000 to the four councils, for the 2019/20 financial year, to further support multi-agency work to rehabilitate those who have been released from prison. The funding will help agencies work even closer together to ensure that appropriate support and advice is offered to reduce reoffending rates and direct them to support services available to help them secure suitable accommodation and improve their chances of maintaining independence.
Specialist staff will work with prisoners during their time in custody, developing individual support plans to ensure they are not released as homeless. This additional support will be provided to prisoners over the age of 18 who have had a custodial sentence or been on remand in a Kent prison for less than 12 months, with an initial focus on those who were homeless when they went to prison or who have previously been a rough sleeper.
Those accessing the project must have a local connection to the Canterbury, Maidstone, Medway or Thanet areas, as defined in national homelessness legislation. People with no local connection and no accommodation on release, but who show a commitment to rehabilitate and a clear intention to settle in one of the four areas, can access advice and guidance.
Accommodation will be sourced from the private sector and landlords are being encouraged to engage with the project.
Canterbury City Council led the funding bid for all four councils
Speaking on behalf of all the authorities, its Head of Community Services, Marie Royle, said there was a direct correlation between offending behaviour, repeat offending and homelessness. She added: “Prisoners and ex-offenders are identified as a group of people who can be particularly vulnerable and find accessing suitable accommodation challenging. Often, rough sleeping becomes the only avenue open to them and it develops into a downward spiral that is very difficult to escape from.
“Through joint working by all the organisations involved in this very complex issue, we will be offering early intervention to ensure prisoners have somewhere to go when they are released and can access the ongoing support they need.
“The ultimate aim is to reduce the number of rough sleepers and reoffending rates in the four areas, and we’re really pleased to have secured such a significant sum of money from the government to try and achieve that.”
Providing help to rough sleepers all year round
Medway Council works closely with partner agencies in the Homelessness Forum, including the police, health services, housing providers, local charities and support workers. The council commissions a range of support and advice throughout the year to help people who are homeless and those who are facing homelessness. In addition to the funding to help rehabilitate offenders, Medway Council is also benefitting from £486,000 worth of funding from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government for the 2019/2020 financial year to further complement its work to support rough sleepers.
The latest funding, jointly awarded to the four councils, will further support Medway Council’s outreach work to ensure help and advice is provided to all members of the community.
Mark Breathwick, Head of Housing at Medway Council, said: “In Medway we provide support and accommodation all year round for people who have nowhere to live. We work closely with residents from a variety of backgrounds who may find themselves homeless.
"We are pleased that we have been awarded more government funding to further support our work to provide advice and support to people facing homelessness. Our support services are available to everyone and the additional funding will help provide dedicated support to those in prison to help rehabilitate and reduce reoffending.
"We are committed to addressing as many aspects of rough sleeping as we can, including providing specialist advice on the issues that can cause people to become homeless. I would encourage anyone at risk of becoming homeless to contact Kingsley House in Gillingham to access the support available to them.”