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A Kent homeless charity is warning the county is facing a homelessness crisis on a deeply concerning scale.
Porchlight, which provides supported accommodation, homeless prevention and outreach services, says it has seen a 40% increase in people asking for its help over the last year.
Its rough sleeper service has seen a 93% rise in referrals, while Porchlight's 24 hour helpline is also seeing unprecedented demand, receiving an average of 771 calls a month - even more shocking considering that the Canterbury Samaritans reported an average of just 476 in 2010.
The crisis facing Kent echoes the national picture with government data showing that 26,400 people approached their local council for housing help in the first three months of 2011, a rise of 23% compared with the same period last year.
Less than half of these applications were successful resulting in growing numbers of "hidden" homeless – people forced to squat or sleep on friends' sofas after not qualifying for statutory help.
Gill Bryant, Porchlight’s Head of Operations said: “When people are vulnerable and need help they shouldn’t have doors shut in their face and be forced into squats and other unsuitable accommodation.
"It’s the final stage before living in the street. Help needs to be there before it
gets that far.”
The charity says that the forthcoming changes to Housing Benefit and the introduction of the Localism Bill are going to put even more pressure on its services as people struggle to cope and spending cuts start to bite. Porchlight is particularly concerned about Kent Supporting