'Homelessness is definitely increasing in Kingston': New figures show 26 households without a roof this Christmas

Surrey Comet: Homeless charities in Kingston believe the number of people sleeping rough in the town is increasing Homeless charities in Kingston believe the number of people sleeping rough in the town is increasing

At least 26 individuals or families will be spending this Christmas classed as homeless in Kingston, according to new offical figures.

But charities in the borough say statistics are only the tip of the iceberg in a growing problem for the town.

The latest Government figures show that between June and September this year Kingston Council had accepted 26 households – including single persons, couples and families – as homeless and in priority need.

A further 470 households were in temporary accommodation by September 30.

But outreach worker and former rough-sleeper Dan Wheeler, from Kingston Churches Action on Homelessness (KCAH), said the figures did not reflect the true picture.

He said: “The last count I did in November was 37 rough sleepers, and that changes week by week.

“In Kingston I would say there will always be at least 20 to 30 people sleeping rough at any given time.”

Mr Wheeler said most of Kingston’s homeless were men, although this year women with children had come seeking help.

There had also been an increase in the number of eastern European people sleeping on the streets.

Recently one rough sleeper was hospitalised with hypothermia and trench foot, while others could die out in the cold, according to Mr Wheeler.

He said: “It sounds silly when you’re in such a wealthy borough like Kingston to have death on your doorstep, but people are dying.”

KCAH is currently running the mobile winter night shelter, which provides a hot meal, a bed and breakfast for up to 12 people a night, in different venues across the borough including a new shelter at St Peter’s Church.

Project manager Rachel Makin said the shelters was full every night this year, adding: “It [homelessness] is definitely increasing, definitely.

"This year we’ve seen a rise in the number of people who have been on the streets for longer.

“It is harder to house these people as their lives tend to be more chaotic and they have alcohol problems.

“What we need is more support to help manage these people, so they get to a point where they can sustain accommodation by themselves.”

Last week, Christopher Turner, 51, was convicted of fraud after begging outside HSBC in Surbiton as a homeless person despite having a council house in King Charles Road.

Mr Wheeler said it was down to individuals whether they gave money to homeless people.

He said: “I would discourage giving cash to homeless people, as it will only sustain them for the day.

“By giving to charity, we can put the money to help them with housing, getting into programmes and getting off the streets.”

You can donate to Kingston Churches Action on Homelessness directly on 020 8255 7400 or via the Love Kingston campaign, which supports five charities offering pathways out of poverty for people in the borough.

For information, call Love Kingston fundraising manager Elaine Miller on 020 8255 3335, email elaine@londoncf.org.uk or visit the website.

* YMCA London South West will be raising money for homelessness with its annual Sleep Easy event in Kingston memorial gardens on Friday, January 25.

It is hoped up to 250 people will spend a sponsored night out in the cold, from 7pm until 6am the following day. To sign up, visit the website.

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