Canterbury City Council is among four Kent local authorities which have been granted government cash to help them prevent offenders becoming homeless upon release from prison,
Some 50 per cent of Kent’s released prisoners have no accommodation and nearly half of the county’s rough sleepers have a criminal past.
As a result the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government is handing Canterbury, Maidstone, Medway and Thanet £314,000 to pay for a project aimed at reducing rough sleeping among offenders.
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The councils will unite a range of agencies to adopt a coordinated approach to meeting the housing and support needs of prisoners about to be released.
Its aim “is to secure suitable accommodation for them to move into, reduce reoffending rates and improve their chances of maintaining independence”.
Funding is for the 2019/20 financial year and will be used to employ more staff to work with prisoners during their time in custody, developing individual support plans to ensure they are not released as homeless.
Canterbury City Council led the funding bid on behalf of the four councils. Head of community services Marie Royle explains that there is a direct link between offending behaviour, repeat offending and homelessness.
She said: “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.”
The scheme will be open 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.
Ex-offenders with no local connection and no accommodation on release, but who are intending to settle in one of the four areas, can access advice and guidance.
Accommodation will come from the private sector and landlords are being encouraged to engage with the project.