On Tuesday Rachel Van Hoven from local homeless charity Porchlight (one of current President Margaret Griffin's three charities for the year) visited our Club and gave a very interesting talk about the charity's work.
Our Club has longstanding links with Porchlight, and we were pleased to get to hear about the charity's latest efforts to help deal with homelessness. During her talk Rachel showed a film that focussed on young rough sleepers. She surprised (and shocked) most of us with a statistic showing that of 346 cases handled by Porchlight in Canterbury last year, 60 were young rough sleepers aged between 10 and 21.
We learnt that there are various causes for youngsters to become homeless, some resulting from breakdown of family and other social relationships. The charity places emphasis on group work which helps to get the young people to come out of their shell and learn how to manage relationships with others. In many cases there is reconciliation with parents. Where possible, youngsters are also encouraged to go back to courses which they may have abandoned.
Porchlight changes 5,000 lives in Kent each year, and 80% move away from sleeping rough. But, worryingly, Porchlight's finances have been reduced in recent years, and private landlords have been less willing to help. These are proving to be two of many challenges for homeless charities such as Porchlight at present. It means the charities are becoming increasingly reliant on public donations and fundraising.
Our Club's recent grant of £1,000 (via our Community Service Committee, chaired by PP David Barton) helped to get a refurbishing operation underway in Porchlight's hostel; as part of this, 21 bedrooms are to be refreshed as they have become old and tired. Rachel showed us a film of how the rooms will now provide a comfortable and pleasant environment to stay - conducive to the occupants starting on a journey to a new life.
After questions, President Margaret Griffin characterised the talk as "inspirational" and recalled that Porchlight was a high priority presidential Rotary project.
For more details about Porchlight please visit their website.
Picture: PP David Barton, Rachel Van Hoven and President Margaret Griffin. Picture credit: Martin Ward/Rotary Club of Canterbury.