Question mark hangs over homeless charity’s future

Pam Mills

THE prospect of severe funding cuts means the Bridge Trust faces an uncertain future, the head of the homeless charity has warned.

Speaking to the Times, CEO John Handley revealed that around £120,000, a quarter of their funding, was under threat from a change of policy by Kent County Council.

“A big question mark hangs over our finances. We used to have two year rolling contracts with the county council to provide our services. Then it went down to one year and now we’ve been told that it will be only six months and that will be the last one

“I know there are discussions at KCC to scale back commissioning services that they do not have a statutory obligation to provide,” he said, adding that he expected small contracts such as those with the Bridge Trust will be replaced with large county-wide projects.  

This threat comes on the back of a difficult year for the charity which saw them lose over £100,000 after moving their used furniture warehouse store.

They had to relocate due to the McDonalds Drive-Thru development in Cannon Lane but new premises in Paddock Wood proved unsuccessful.

The Bridge Trust provide support for single homeless adults, who fall outside of the statutory definition of being in ‘priority need’, to turn their life around and move them on into independence.

To maintain cash flow they had to sell one of their houses in Shipbourne Road, meaning their accommodation capacity has been reduced from 27 to 23.

And Mr Handley attributed the death of Giles Metcalfe to this downscaling. Mr Metcalfe was allegedly murdered while sleeping rough in Torrington Car Park in Tunbridge Wells in March.

“If we’d had our funding maintained, he would be alive today,” he said.

The recent fall in the charity’s funding has not been matched with a drop in demand as year on year there have been more people requesting their services, with an overall 43 per cent increase since 2010.

Mr Handley encouraged Tonbridge residents to choose to sponsor the Bridge Trust for the Lions Club’s charity walk through the countryside this Sunday [May 14].

Homelessness Reduction Act 2017

Passed into law on March 23, this new legislation will oblige district and borough councils to start assessing someone at risk of being made homeless 56 days before losing their home. Currently, the threat of homelessness is defined as starting 28 days before the person loses their home.

Mr Handley welcomed the law as ‘a very good thing’ but questioned how the limited money pledged towards it [£61million for the whole country], would cover the additional services.

“Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council are going to have to do all this extra with their current resources,” he said, adding that ‘the underlying fact is that eventually people will need to be housed’.

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