Homeless people given keys to Ipswich house to stop them sleeping rough or sofa-surfing
A house in Ipswich has been refurbished especially to provide a place to live for homeless people in Ipswich to prevent them sleeping rough.
The two-bedroom home, owned by East of England Co-op, had been empty for six months when Orwell Housing Association landed a grant from Homes England to carry out an extensive revamp.
Having transformed the site into accommodation for two people who were previously using the Ipswich Winter Night Shelter, Orwell Housing is now leasing the property while the Selig (Suffolk) Trust - which runs the night shelter - manages the site.
It is part of the latter's Hope into Action project, which gives homeless people a vital place to stay instead of sofa-surfing or sleeping rough - thereby giving them a chance to overcome their plight.
"The intention is that the property provides move on accommodation to enable the individuals to come off the street, and with the support provide by Selig/Hope into Action, re-establish themselves in the community and eventually move onto independent permanent accommodation," said Greg Dodds, assistant director of development at Orwell Housing.
"This has been a fantastic project to work on and proves collaborative working between organisations can really make a difference to people lives."
The property ensures the two residents have separate bedrooms and their own personal space, while sharing a bathroom, kitchen and living room.
Nick Denny, joint chief executive of East of England Co-op, said: "We saw The Selig Trust and Hope into Action needed help in providing homes for the homeless in our area, so we were delighted to provide a two-bedroom home in Ipswich.
"It's an example of how we're able to help make a real difference in our communities through our property portfolio."
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One of the residents, Mark (not his real name), arrived at Ipswich railway station holding just a single carrier bag having used a church-based winter night shelter in the Yorkshire Dales.
"If it wasn't for organisations like this, I'd still be on the streets - or worse," he said.
"When you think you're low, there's no light at the end of the tunnel - but when something like this happens to you, it gives you hope.
"My life's completely different now. I'm working full-time and I volunteered at the Ipswich Winter Night Shelter, because I wanted to give something back."
Julia Hancock, business manager of the Selig (Suffolk) Trust, said: "Mark's put a lot into volunteering - he really cares about our night shelter guests, because he's been in their shoes.
"Not many people are brave enough to do what Mark did - moving to a new place to leave temptation and unhelpful influencers behind. Partnerships like this with the East of England Co-op and Orwell Housing Association are absolutely invaluable.
"Through the support of The Selig Trust and Hope into Action, the aim is to support tenants to gain long-term employment and manage money so that they can, in time, move into their own home."
The house has been named "The Cord", which is taken from a scripture that says: "a triple-braided cord is not easily broken".
Last year organisations like Ipswich Housing Action Group (IHAG) and the night shelter worked closely together to help reduce rough sleeping.
However those organisations fear there could be many more "hidden homeless" who stay on friends' and families' sofas and in their spare rooms because they do not have a home of their own.