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Catching Lives extended winter provision was a lifeline to people sleeping rough and insecurely housed 

The Catching Lives day centre garden in sunny weather

Figures show how Catching Lives’ extended opening hours helped people experiencing homelessness in East Kent this winter. 

We were able to extend our opening hours from 1st January to the end of March this year thanks to a £57,000 grant from DCMS via the National Lottery’s Community Organisations Cost of Living Fund. 

Our extended provision meant we were open from 9am to 8pm, except during Wednesday staff meetings when we closed at 1.30pm and reopened for the evening 5-8pm. On average, we welcomed 21 people per evening, 17 of whom had an evening meal. Fifteen people who visited us in the evening did not return to use our daytime services. 

Of 142 evening clients who shared their housing status with us, as of 31 March 2024: 54 per cent were sleeping rough (which includes sleeping in cars), 13 per cent were sofa surfing (hidden homeless) and 12 per cent were in emergency or time-limited housing. The others had tenancies or were in supported accommodation. 

One client said: “[The evening provision] made a huge difference. [It] cut down the time spent in the cold and dark. [It] gave a space to chat and have some fun and have something to eat and drink.” 

Another said: “At this juncture in my life I just couldn’t wish for more kindness, help, along with a full stomach. Thank you so much.” 

As well as employing a team of locum project workers, our amazing volunteers were essential in keeping the provision going. 

Tasmin Maitland, Chief Executive of Catching Lives, said: “We are hugely grateful for the commitment of our volunteer team and the difference they made to people’s experience of our winter provision.  

“The provision of a warm space and hot food made a big difference to people, especially where they were sleeping rough.    

“People liked the more informal contact, with staff and volunteers having more time to chat and play games, compared to the daytime drop-in when the focus is more on one-to-one support. 

“People in housing said that the opportunity for social connection and relieving the boredom of dark winter evenings at home made a big difference to them.” 

Catching Lives laid on extra activities during these months and those that were particularly popular include Film Club, Creative Poetry and British Red Cross First Aid training.  

One client said: “Activities are the most structured thing that I love most and I love structure. We all need structure, well I do, and it’s brilliant and I am very grateful that Catching Lives came up with all the ones for us.” 

Further information

In early Autumn 2023, Catching Lives made the difficult decision not to run a winter shelter using local church halls, because we didn’t have enough funding secured. 

We then launched our Winter Appeal with a target of £50,000 and continued to submit bids to funders with the aim of providing some form of extended winter provision in the Centre.   

 In December 2023, thanks to the incredibly generous support of our community plus the award of a £57,000 grant from DCMS via the National Lottery’s Community Organisations Cost of Living Fund, we were able to plan for extended opening hours from 1st January to 31st March 2024.

Related: Catching Lives saw 22 per cent increase in demand on services in 2023

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