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Maidstone Homeless Care reveals families need for food bank as You Can Help campaign returns

A charity set up to help the homeless is increasingly helping children.

Maidstone Homeless Care, which provides support for the vulnerable, says it received an unprecedented number of family referrals during the first week back to school in September.

It attributed this to the cost of getting kids ready for the new academic year.

With the difficult Christmas period now approaching, KentOnline is once again supporting its You Can Help appeal for donations to help it fund its various services, which also includes a day centre for the homeless in Knightrider Street, as well as its food bank.

Its Food For Thought scheme receives donations from supermarkets, local businesses, churches and individuals.

It supplied 3,552 packs of food this year, with an average of 308 a month. The service has helped 1,400 adults and 532 children.

Speaking about the noticeable spike in referrals this year, manager Tara Beckett said: “We had an unbelievable amount – the numbers really went up in the first week or two of September.

“We went into double figures. The previous week, we'd had three or four referrals a day.

“It surprised us how many we got and they were families as well.

“We linked it with going back to school, it is a really expensive time for families.

“It just shows that this time of year is really costly with uniforms and school dinners.”

Donations are used to make carry out packs for the homeless and to prepare meals at the day centre.

They are also used to create essential parcels for households at an imminent risk of homelessness.

“I think there are things that are out of their control – rent, mortgage rates and food prices going up.”

Ms Beckett, 50, believes it is not only back-to-school purchases, but also the added burden of the cost-of-living crisis and high energy bills piling on the pressure this year.

Many people are facing the heartbreaking choice to keep warm or go without food, she says.

“In 24 hours someone's life can change,” she explained.

“We see people come through the door that have had jobs and families, but then there's been a relationship breakdown or debt and they are just trying to keep their heads above water.

“In the extreme it leads to homelessness, but also in our food banks it's those that are struggling to get by on Universal Credit or low income.

“They were surviving on what they could do and their money is just going a lot quicker or not going as far.

“People's lives can downward spiral very quickly.

“I think there are things that are out of their control – rent, mortgage rates and food prices going up.”

Maidstone Homeless Care has been running for more than 35 years and also aims to help get rough sleepers off the street and into permanent accommodation.

Additional services such as a community nurse, osteopath, dental van and hairdresser, pop into the centre from time to time.

On average the centre has helped 221 people a month.

During the past six months, 25 homeless clients have successfully gone through the process of being rehomed.

Tara added: “What I have found is that Maidstone is an incredibly charitable town.

“It amazes me that people are still thinking of giving, even when they're trying to look after themselves. It's been unbelievable really.”

Greenbanks Care Home in Buckland Road donates packs of noodles, beans and tea every month to the centre.

“About a year ago, I could probably fill up the whole boot with £100 worth of food,” director Asmeeta Varsani noted.

“But now it is around half for the same amount of money. I earn, so I believe I should give back to the community. This is my way of saying thank you.”

Homeless Care’s You Can Help campaign is now in its 22nd year.

They fundraise during the festive period and collect food, clothes and hygiene items.

The launch of the campaign coincides with new statistics released from the charity Shelter – revealing that at least 29,500 people in the South East will spend Christmas without a home.

This includes more than 13,500 children and is an increase of 10% in one year.

To give a financial donation click here, or to donate items please message

You can also purchase a specific item via their Amazon Wish List.

Schools contributing this year include St Simon Stock, Invicta Grammar, Cornwallis Academy, Maplesden Noakes, Maidstone Grammar for Boys and Maidstone Grammar for Girls.

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