Rough sleeper number falls following council funding push

Only seven people were found to be sleeping in the streets of the town during the night of the annual rough sleeper count, which took place in November. This compares to 20 in the previous year.

The count was carried in the early hours of one morning and presents a snapshot of the number of people sleeping in doorways, park benches or other locations around the town.

The drop in number follows a successful bid by the Tunbridge Wells Borough Council (TWBC) for a share of a government grant to help rough sleepers.

The funding provided additional outreach work, an extended Winter Shelter, and tenancies for people who are street homeless.

The Council has also provided its own funding to assist homeless families by purchasing and refurbishing Dowding House in Paddock Wood, which is now being used to provide temporary accommodation.

Maureen Chaseley, from Tunbridge Wells Churches Winter Shelter, who helped with the count, praised the efforts made by the council and said the figures were ‘accurate’ and a ‘true reflection’ of the number of people sleeping on the street in the town.

 “We have on average six people come to us each night,” said Mrs Chaseley. “So there’s enough beds for those that want to help themselves.”

She did add, however, that some people do refuse assistance and choose to remain on the street.

“Unfortunately, due to certain lifestyle choices, there are people sleeping rough that do not want help.”

The shelter, which opened on 2 January, assesses each new applicant, and as long as they do not have a criminal record for violence or sexual offences, they can be accommodated the same day.

Cllr Lynne Weatherly, Portfolio Holder for Communities and Wellbeing at TWBC, commented on the figures.

“This is very good news. The significant fall in the number of people sleeping rough is the result of a lot of hard work by the Council’s housing team and the other agencies and voluntary groups who work so hard to support this section of our community.

“People in Tunbridge Wells are incredibly generous and, like the Council, want to see the end to all rough sleeping. At this time of year, people are looking for ways to help so I would urge anyone who wants to donate to do so through the Tunbridge Wells Churches Winter Shelter or a charity like Porchlight.”

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