FOR THE HOMELESS AND VULNERABLE IN KENT , THE COLD WINTER MONTHS CAN BE PARTICULARLY HARD . THIS MONTH , WE SPOKE TO THE BRIDGE TRUST , A CHARITY THAT AIMS TO HELP THE HOMELESS , ABOUT WHY WHAT THEY DO IS SO IMPORTANT .
What is it that The Bridge Trust does , and why is it needed ?
The Bridge Trust has been helping local homeless people for over 25 years . We provide community-based accommodation and tailored one-to-one support to help people change their lives . Our aim is to help people overcome whatever issues or barriers they may have to living independently .
What is the charity ’ s history ?
We started working in around 1990 when a few people from a local church had a vision for helping alleviate the street homelessness problems in west Kent . From there the charity was established and now has five properties giving accommodation to 23 people .
What makes you unique ?
We provide our services specifically to single , homeless adults as these people are not entitled to any statutory help from their local authority ; if they become homeless , without us they are on their own . Dealing with people from 18 years old up to retirement age of both sexes makes us unique in west Kent .
How many people have you helped over the years ? Are there any stories that particularly stand out ?
We have helped over 7,000 people with advice , mediation , sleeping bags , clothes and food , but our core service is accommodation-based support and we have housed over 700 people over the past 25 years .
Every person we help is individual and has their own story as to how they became homeless and how they turned their lives around . However , one person often comes to mind as he was visually impaired when he became homeless in the mid 1990s . The Trust gave him somewhere to live and the support he needed to move his life on . Being a keen swimmer , he managed to get into the Sidney Olympic swimming team where he won four
Olympic medals . He is now married with children and is a swimming coach . This is just one example of how someone can go from rock bottom to fulfilling their dreams .
How do you raise money ?
The Trust has three main income streams . We have a contract with the county council to provide support services , but that only covers 25 % of our income needs . When people come into our accommodation they pay us rent – either from their salary or from housing benefit and this gives us around another 25 %. This leaves us with the problem of raising about 50 % of our income ourselves , through two charity shops , fundraising events , grants and general charitable donations .
Are there any upcoming events that our readers can get involved with ?
We are one of the chosen charities supported by the Tunbridge Wells Half Marathon in February this year . We therefore have free