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Social Justice

‘Homelessness is everywhere’: Poverty and inequality in the Garden of England

There’s an emergency on British high streets. Recently, our vendors in Kent raised the alarm. Watch our video reports here.

Big Issue vendors are a mainstay of the UK’s high streets. There are few people better placed to give a temperature check of the country’s town centres. So when our vendors in Kent told us they’d noticed rising levels of poverty in the county, we had to investigate.

In Dover, Colin Davey said he could no longer sell the magazine in his hometown. Over the last few years, the town centre “just went dead”.

He now has to travel up the coast to Broadstairs every day to go to work. [You can buy a subscription from Colin here.]

According to the latest research by the End Child Poverty coalition, there were 104,951 children living in poverty in Kent in the year 2019/2020.

Dover has the highest number of children living in deprivation in the county. More than one-third of its children (35 per cent) are growing up in poverty.

In Margate, we found a town that feels much more buoyant. But the culture-based regeneration of the town has left many people behind.

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According to a 2021 study by researchers from the London School of Economics, Margate is notable for its “poverty-based polarisation”, with people divided into extremes of wealth and deprivation, and very few in the middle.

Large numbers of people moving to the town from London and elsewhere in the UK have pushed up property prices, leaving many locals struggling to find somewhere to live.

Margate resident Mark Stevenson, who sells The Big Issue in Canterbury, said: “Homelessness is definitely everywhere. Everywhere you look, there’s someone sleeping in some shop doorway.”

Read our full investigation into poverty and inequality in Kent in this week’s Big Issue, available to buy from your local vendor until September 19.

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