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The number of people sleeping rough is at a five year high – so how big is Ipswich’s homelessness problem?

PUBLISHED: 06:00 28 November 2016 | UPDATED: 07:58 05 December 2016

PA Library photo of homeless people sleeping rough on the streets.

PA Library photo of homeless people sleeping rough on the streets.

As homelessness figures continue to soar across the UK, Gemma Mitchell begins a series of features investigating the scale of the problem in Ipswich and what is being done to help.

Sue Raychaudri, manager of the Chapman Centre.Sue Raychaudri, manager of the Chapman Centre.

The number of people sleeping rough in Ipswich has hit its highest level for at least five years.

Latest figures show there were 16 people regularly living on the streets, compared to just five in 2013.

And 19 vulnerable people with housing issues are believed to have died in the town in just 16 months.

That’s the scale of the problem facing local support organisations and charities in Ipswich – but there is a huge effort under way to tackle it.

Sue Raychaudri manages the Chapman Centre, a support and advice service for the town’s homeless and needy.

Many of these 19 deaths were down to mental health concerns, or drug and alcohol issues, Miss Raychaudri said, but changes to the benefits system have also pushed people in Ipswich into crisis.

“It’s deeply saddening for me to see that,” she added. “It’s a human being’s life we are talking about.

“With regards to the homeless situation, it is on the rise. The statistics prove that.”

The Emmaus Ipswich team at the charity shop in Dales Road.The Emmaus Ipswich team at the charity shop in Dales Road.

In 2015 the number of people sleeping rough in Ipswich reached a five-year high.

According to Government statistics, there were 13 people sleeping on the town’s streets in 2010; seven in 2011; seven in 2012; and five in 2013.

The figure rose to eight in 2014 and then took a massive jump to 16 last year.

Nationally the problem has got worse year-on-year.

In 2010 there were 1,768 people sleeping rough in England; this increased to 2,181 in 2011; 2,309 in 2012; and 2,414 in 2013.

The following year the figure rose by 14% to 2,744, and then by another 30% last year to 3,569.

In a bid to curb the growing problem, more than 40 agencies came to together four years ago to form the Ipswich Locality Homelessness Partnership. The aim is to work side by side to rid the town of rough sleeping and to prevent vulnerable people from losing their homes.

At the heart of this partnership is the Chapman Centre, based in Black Horse Lane.

Gary Starns at Emmaus Ipswich.Gary Starns at Emmaus Ipswich.

Miss Raychaudri said the hub was deeply needed. It sees around 45 visitors per day, some of whom come from as far afield as Lowestoft and Colchester to access help.

“The work we do here, the clients always tell us it is not only safe and supportive, but we are non-judgmental,” she added.

“We are one of a kind. There is no other charity or organisation that delivers this service.”

The Chapman Centre is run by the Ipswich Housing Action Group charity, which recently celebrated its 40th birthday.

It is fairly well supported by volunteers and donations – but Miss Raychaudri urged people to remember that homelessness was an all-year-round problem.

“We are inundated in the winter months, but I don’t need it,” she said. “I need it in June when people think there’s no homeless issue at all. In August I had the highest numbers in homelessness.”

The Chapman Centre provides a day advice service for support on housing, debts, welfare benefits and drug, alcohol and health issues. It puts on meaningful activities for its service users such as cooking workshops, games and crafts.

There is access to computers, shower facilities, phones, lunches, clothing and food parcels.

One day a week the NHS health outreach team puts on drop-in sessions for any medical worries. It has a street outreach co-ordinator who walks the town two mornings a week and checks on people who are sleeping rough. It also offers volunteer opportunities to prisoners from Hollesley Bay to help them reintegrate into the community.

But most importantly it works closely with the other agencies in the locality partnership, which includes Suffolk Constabulary and Ipswich Borough Council, along with numerous charities and community organisations, to find people the right help to turn their lives around.

Case study: Gary Starns

He spent months living on the streets with just a tent to sleep in and a bicycle to ride.

But today Gary Starns is able to make plans for his future, with a roof over his head and work experience behind him.

The 49-year-old was made homeless in October last year after he failed to get the right support for his mental health problems from services in a different county.

Mr Starns suffers from depression, anxiety and dissociative disorder.

“When I first got made homeless I had a part-time cleaning job,” Mr Starns said.

“But then I was homeless; I couldn’t go back to work. I had nowhere to clean my clothes or no where to clean myself.

“I was going no where and I had no hope of improvement.

“I had to go somewhere so I headed in this direction.”

Mr Starns arrived in Ipswich in December last year and was sleeping in a tent.

“The first couple of weeks I had nothing, I wasn’t getting any further forward,” he said.

After visiting the Salvation Army to register his interest for housing, Mr Starns was put in touch with the Chapman Centre, the Ipswich homelessness hub in Black Horse Lane.

There he was given specialist support, and was able to get medication and counselling for his mental health concerns after being assessed by the health outreach team.

“Until I got here and I found the Chapman Centre I wasn’t getting on well at all, I lost four stone,” he said.

“I was pushing my bike around with all my stuff on it and I lost so much weight that pushing it along was killing me.”

In May Mr Starns was taken on by Emmaus Ipswich, a charity that offers people who are homeless or under threat of being homeless volunteering opportunities to help them rebuild their lives.

Emmaus has a charity shop in Dales Road, which takes donated items and “up-cycles” them to improve their value.

Two days a week Mr Starns volunteers at the shop, helping with gardening, decoration and up-cycling.

“It’s got me out and given me a purpose,” he said. “Maybe some of the skills I pick up here will help me get a job in the future.”

Emmaus project manager Claire Staddon said: “Every volunteer that comes to us makes a massive difference to us.

“The value they bring to us is just as good as, hopefully, the value we bring to them.”

Two months ago Mr Starns secured temporary accommodation at a Salvation Army hostel in Ipswich.

Next year he hopes to find shop work, similar to what he is currently doing at Emmaus, and permanent housing.

Mr Starns said he had more help in Ipswich than he had ever had else where.

“This thing about mental health care being a postcode lottery isn’t a joke, it’s real,” he added.

“I grew up screwed up and basically my life in a nutshell was wandering from one car crash to another.

“It got to the point where I couldn’t do it any more.

“The depression was stopping me getting on with my life.

“There’s a lot more support here, it seems to be more determined to work.

“It seems better focused because the agencies do keep contact with each other and are talking to each other constantly.”

To read day two of our homelessness investigation, click here.

8 comments

  • Ask how they reach this stupidly low figure. and the answer might surprise a few , not counted if doing any thing other than laying down .

    Report this comment

    purpleanna

    Tuesday, November 29, 2016

  • Sadly there will always be an element of drink drugs amongst some of the homeless people living on the streets.Its very easy to be judgemental , but a lot of these mostly men, are victims of circumstances, albeit relationship breakdown, job loss, addictions.The council do not give help to single men who have lost or are about to lose their homes, if you were female with a child in tow then the help is out there, but men (and probably a few single women with no dependants) are considered very low priority. I dont understand how they are expected to find 2,000 pounds for deposits and rent upfront and also many landlords want references and guarantors, its an impossible situation for many people, hence they end up sleeping on the streets. And its very easy to imagine how someone can spiral into despair when things are so hopless.I never want to be in this situation , i cant imagine not having a front door to shut behind me, to be able to lay on the settee when i want, to go to bed when i want , my home is my peace of mind and my sanctuary.So i have nothing but compassion for people living on the streets, and i dont judge.

    Report this comment

    2plus2equals5

    Monday, November 28, 2016

  • I'm not saying it is every homeless person but over half of them when I have walked passed are drinking alcohol and probably do drugs too perhaps if they spent money on accommodation instead of this as this money tax payers pay

    Report this comment

    Twinkle--

    Monday, November 28, 2016

  • Homelessness doubled in the 6 long wasted Austerity Years the 'caring sharing' tories have been in office ?....

    Report this comment

    freedomf

    Monday, November 28, 2016

  • Terrible to see so many people now struggling when we give over £12 Billion a year away in so called foreign aid . Time to say charity begins at home !

    Report this comment

    Macke

    Monday, November 28, 2016

  • The reality is that a number of these people stay on the streets as they aren't ready to do what they need to do to BE housed. Few charities will take you if you are an active drug user of alcohol dependent. That's why the same old faces beg around the town and appear at the local magistrates as 'of Black Horse Lane'. In addition it is routine for Councils to turn away working age people without dependents when they are homeless, because the law says they aren't owed a duty. It's a toxic mix that means that if you become homeless, but otherwise healthy, you'd have to become ill, mentally ill and probably have been beaten up a few times before you would be eligible for help. Needless to say, people turn to alcohol and drugs....then they can only get support if they are able to abstain. This is why what is left of our supported housing is so vital. Most ordinary people labour under the illusion that if things went wrong, they would get help from the Council. The reality is that only a select few will.

    Report this comment

    Sentinel Red

    Monday, November 28, 2016

  • I think that this number is only the tip of the iceberg, both locally and nationally - I know of one church porch in Ipswich where up to half-a-dozen men sleep every night, for instance, and also know of young mothers who are in despair and facing homelessness in the face as a consequence of the recent benefit caps. May I just say that, in addition to the excellent work being done by the Chapman Centre, the Ipswich Churches' Winter Night Shelter Project will be opening in a few days times, this provides shelter, food and care for about a dozen 'rough sleepers' every night during the three coldest nights of the year.

    Report this comment

    Baptist Trainfan

    Monday, November 28, 2016

  • What a depressing and shocking state Ipswich has become under Benedict Gummer MP. He has stood idle with NO input as SCC has cut financial support to many vital services with many services closing ...the results are there for us all to see .

    Report this comment

    deeber

    Monday, November 28, 2016

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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