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'We've barely scratched the surface' - Homeless shelter lends helping hand as rough sleeper numbers double in Bexley

PUBLISHED: 13:15 06 February 2017 | UPDATED: 13:15 06 February 2017

Homelessness

Homelessness

Archant

New figures on rough sleeping were released last month

Sidcup Community Church is home to one of the winter sheltersSidcup Community Church is home to one of the winter shelters

A selfless volunteer is warning of the state of the borough’s homelessness problem.

Recent figures suggest the number of rough sleepers in Bexley nearly doubled from six to 11.

During the colder months, shelters have popped up to help provide sanctuary for anyone looking to escape the elements.

Ian Moody is in charge of assessing any men looking to stay in the Bexley Churches Night Shelter, which launched this winter.

The winter shelter is based at Welling's Salvation Army Hall for most of the weekThe winter shelter is based at Welling's Salvation Army Hall for most of the week

The Bexleyheath resident said: “We’d been trying to get a shelter up and running for three years.

“One of our biggest problems is the borough hasn’t admitted there’s a homeless problem, so we decided to bypass the council and set up our own shelter.

“We have a maximum of 12 spaces, we offer an evening meal and two of our shelters have showers so the guys can get cleaned up.

“The next morning we put up a full breakfast and give them a packed lunch.

Bexley council states the borough has one of the lowest rates for rough sleepersBexley council states the borough has one of the lowest rates for rough sleepers

“We have an assessment programme which helps us recommend services for any of the guys who stay with us.”

The winter shelter is shared between Sidcup’s Community Church on Mondays, the Boy’s Brigade Hall near Asda Bexleyheath on Wednesdays and the Salvation Army Hall in Welling for the rest of the week.

According to figures released last month, Bexley has an average of one homeless person for every 10,000 households.

But Mr Moody, who was born in Sidcup, says the service has already seen 14 men this winter, and fears the problem runs deeper.

“Homelessness is a problem that’s being ignored, but there are over 200 of us volunteering and I’m really pleased with that,” he said.

“I think we’ve barely scratched the surface of Bexley’s homelessness problem, my phone goes off every single day.

“We have to say no to a lot of women because we can’t take them, but we’re hoping to be able to help them next year.

“The guys who come aren’t layabouts like people think, I’ve seen people with degrees or can speak more than one language.

“At the moment, with the financial situation, people can’t afford to pay the rent through no fault of their own, even though they’re working they can’t make ends meet.”

According the council, homeless figures in the borough are lower than most other areas.

A spokesperson said: “Bexley has well below the average figure for London and also below the average for the country as a whole.

“Homelessness is an issue for local authorities across the country. In common with local authorities, we have a limited housing supply and we work hard to protect Council taxpayers by having a fair but robust allocations policy. This policy ensures that the places we do have go to those who need them most.

“We work closely with organisations who assist rough sleepers, this includes St Mungo’s and the local churches. A recent example of this is the night shelter set up by Transform Bexley Borough, which is run by a collection of local churches.”

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