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Ipswich MP slams town’s increasing homelessness figures as ‘outrageous’, as rough sleeping rises across region

PUBLISHED: 17:46 13 September 2017 | UPDATED: 18:39 13 September 2017

A group of homeless were camped on Ipswich Waterfront earlier this year. Picture: GREGG BROWN

A group of homeless were camped on Ipswich Waterfront earlier this year. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Homelessness has reached record levels in parts of Suffolk and Essex with the greatest problems seen in Ipswich.

Ipswich MP Sandy Martin MP pictured with Sarah Jane Brenland at the Tiffers Bus Shelter for the homeless in Ipswich . Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN Ipswich MP Sandy Martin MP pictured with Sarah Jane Brenland at the Tiffers Bus Shelter for the homeless in Ipswich . Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

National Audit Office (NAO) data published yesterday reveals the number of rough sleepers in Ipswich reached 27 last year – up from five in 2013/14. Increases were also recorded in Waveney, St Edmundsbury, Colchester and Babergh, while spending on temporary accommodation grew.

In Ipswich, the scale of the problem has seen agencies form the Help Our Homeless campaign, to support projects in the town.

Ipswich MP Sandy Martin said the figures made him “very angry”. “It’s outrageous in a country as wealthy as Britain that anybody should be sleeping in the streets,” he added. “As someone who has slept rough himself, I cannot believe that anyone in that situation in Ipswich would not take up the option of hostel accommodation, if available.”

Mr Martin said the Government needed to allow councils to invest in new council houses – something the Local Government Association has also called for.

Gareth Brenland, whose family converted a double decker bus into homeless accommodation called “Tiffers the Bus Shelter, Ipswich”, said it was “crazy” people had to sleep rough when so many properties were left empty.

Ipswich Borough Council confirmed 171 homeless applications had been accepted last year, most relating to the loss of private accommodation.

The NAO reported loss of private accommodation had grown to become the biggest cause of homelessness in England. It criticised the Government’s approach to homelessness, claiming it has not evaluated the impact of its welfare reforms.

It also said social housing cuts had led to a rise in spending on temporary accommodation. Ipswich Borough Council spent £180,000 housing people in bed and breakfasts in 2015/16 - up from £59,000 in 2011/12.

Auditor General Sir Amyas Morse said: “Homelessness in all its forms has significantly increased in recent years, driven by several factors. Despite this, government has not evaluated the impact of its reforms on this issue, and there remain gaps in its approach.”

The Government said tackling homelessness was “complex” but it was determined to help by investing £550 million to address the issue and implementing the Homelessness Reduction Act.

• Tiffers the Bus Shelter, Ipswich is looking for a site in Ipswich to run its homeless accommodation from. If you can help, call Mr Brenland on 07769 337521.

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