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Concern over rough sleepers and street drinkers in Ipswich

PUBLISHED: 08:19 01 June 2017 | UPDATED: 08:19 01 June 2017

Beds set up near the 'winerack' at Ipswich Waterfront. Picture: GEMMA MITCHELL

Beds set up near the 'winerack' at Ipswich Waterfront. Picture: GEMMA MITCHELL

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Ipswich has become a "victim of its own success" as homeless people are being sent to the town from other areas to get help, piling added pressure on services, it has been claimed.

St Clement's Church in Fore Street, Ipswich, on May 31, 2017, where a tent has been pitched in the yard. Picture: GEMMA MITCHELLSt Clement's Church in Fore Street, Ipswich, on May 31, 2017, where a tent has been pitched in the yard. Picture: GEMMA MITCHELL

As the weather has turned warmer, more and more rough sleepers and street drinkers have been spotted in the town centre.

Highlighted problem areas are the Waterfront by the ‘winerack’, outside the empty BHS building in the town centre and in St Clement’s Church yard, where a tent has been pitched.

Susie Mills, manager of Ipswich Locality Homelessness Partnership (ILHP), said other local authorities were sending homeless people to Ipswich “with nowhere to go when they get here”.

She added: “I think there are a lot of services in Ipswich and it is maybe a victim of its own success.

A sleeping area in set up outside the empty BHS building in Ipswich town centre. Picture: GEMMA MITCHELLA sleeping area in set up outside the empty BHS building in Ipswich town centre. Picture: GEMMA MITCHELL

“It is also on the rail line so it’s easy to get to. People on release from prison in Norwich travel on the train to Ipswich.

“There’s not enough accommodation, that’s the crux of the matter, but if you put in another 100 beds they will fill up and there would still be people living on the street because if you provide more accommodation then more people are attracted to the town.”

One man who lives near St Clement’s Church, but asked to remain anonymous, said groups were congregating in the yard all day every day, drinking alcohol and taking drugs.

He said: “There seems to be area that is ideal for them, there are benches and an alcove area. In the corner there is a pile of cans, bottles and hypodermic needles.

“They are local people who don’t have anywhere else to go, which is sad but it can’t be allowed to carry on because it’s not a camp site it’s a churchyard. It’s the anti-social behaviour that comes with it that’s the issue.”

A spokeswoman for Suffolk Constabulary said police were aware of problems at St Clement’s Church, and there was “ongoing work to deal with the concerns highlighted”.

One of the priorities of the central Ipswich neighbourhood policing team is to tackle anti-social behaviour linked with street drinking and rough sleeping.

Sergeant Vicky McParland added: “Derelict buildings, such as the former BHS shop, do attract those sleeping rough and we liaise with building owners and the council to secure these by boarding them up where possible.

“We have also spoken to landowners in the Waterfront, particularly those whose buildings are within development stage, to ask that they keep their grounds clear and secure to deter rough sleeping.

“We recognise that some people who sleep rough are vulnerable, which is why we work closely with the Ipswich Borough Council and a number of partner agencies, including the ILHP, the Ipswich Housing Action Group, as well as health and social care organisations, to offer them access to accommodation and to the support they need.”

On the last official count there were 27 rough sleepers in Ipswich.

Robert Wragg, who runs the ILHP outreach team and patrols the town two mornings a week, said there had been no significant rise, but the warm weather had brought more drinkers outside.

He added: “There is never a quick fix.”

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