Help is available for the homeless

YOU are not alone!That was the message today to Ipswich's homeless community who are being offered an arm of support by different agencies across the county.

YOU are not alone!

That was the message today to Ipswich's homeless community who are being offered an arm of support by different agencies across the county.

The support available to people has today been highlighted following the tragic death of an elderly homeless man, who was found in Ipswich on Sunday night.

Police believe the man, whose body had started to decompose, had been sleeping rough in the bushes in Ranelagh Road.

His death is not being treated as suspicious. Police said he is still to be identified and his next of kin has yet to be informed. It is believed he had been homeless for some time.

Peter Green, manager of The Salvation Army's Lyndon House in Fore Street, knows all too well the desperate state some people arrive in when they turn up on their door.

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He said: “When people come here, they are at their lowest. Usually they just have the clothes they stand in and have been sleeping rough.

“There are 101 reasons and degrees of why a person ends up here.

“Our main emphasis is on what their needs are and to give them a meaningful day. The biggest reason for people becoming homeless is the breakdown of the family.”

Lyndon House, which has 39 single rooms, is a centre for homeless men aged 18 years and over, who are in need of housing. The centre, which is nearly always full, aims to help the resettlement to permanent housing by providing temporary accommodation and also aims to build their self-esteem by teaching them skills like cooking and budgeting.

No referrals are needed as people can just walk off the street although there are a lot of referrals from agencies like Probation and the Prison Service. The oldest resident is currently 80 although the majority are in their 30s and 40s.

The largest hostel for homeless people in Ipswich is the YMCA in Wellington Street. It is made up of 104 units and caters for any person over the age of 16 who is homeless-although the average age is between 19 and 25 years old.

There is a strict no alcohol and no drugs policy and anyone caught using on site will be evicted.

Barbie Adams, housing manager at the Ipswich YMCA, said: “There is not a shortage of people who need rooms but Ipswich does not have as big a homeless problem as some other cities. There is no reason for anyone to be homeless in Ipswich.

“It is about more than providing a roof over their heads. We try to give these young people the skills and confidence to move on in society.

“If this was not here, I don't know where people would go.”

Mike Fisher, chief executive officer of the Ipswich YMCA, said: “My biggest difficultly is the perception of the YMCA. There is a negative perception that there are a lot of people here with drug problems and violence.

“Largely we are their landlords here but we also provide care and support.”

Other hostels in the town include Sanctuary Supported Housing in Anglesea Road, Ipswich, which has 14 single rooms and four self-contained one bedroom flats, and is generally aimed at young people.

A spokesman for Suffolk County Council said: “We support people who are particularly vulnerable, perhaps at risk of harm and who haven't got the money to help themselves, to find somewhere to live. Our Supporting People team works closely with providers of support services for homeless people including single people, ex offenders, teenage parents and people with a drug or alcohol problems.”

Among the county council's services for homeless people is an advocacy and representation service, which represents people at the county courts in possession cases.

Ipswich Borough Council also provides services to help this group in society.

A spokesman said: “We offer all sorts of advice, trying with some to enable them to sort out their own problems out. We will provide rent deposits where necessary, phone landlords to get an up-to-date list of their policy, and provide two emergency beds for people who need a bed desperately for the night.”

Are you homeless and want us to tell your story? Did you know the man who died? Call the Star newsdesk on 01473 324788 or write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.

Amy Brame, 22, was living with her dad but when he moved to America, she moved in with her mum and they clashed. She began sleeping on friends' sofas before ended up in the YMCA where I got a room in November 2006.

She said: “People at the YMCA have helped me through the tough times when I needed them. I am pregnant now and will be moving out soon but without them, I wouldn't have had the confidence to get my own place.

“I used to hate walking past here but until I moved in, I didn't know what it was like.”

Nicola Hunt, 19, has been living in bed and breakfast lodgings since she was 15. She has also self-harmed in the past and taken some overdoses.

She said: “The YMCA made me realise that I was not worthless. They gave me the confidence I needed. They gave me something to live for.”

Fiona Wade, 21, has been living at the centre for a year. She moved out of home because of intense rows.

She said: “There were more and more arguments at home and I needed to get away. The YMCA have helped me a lot. They helped me find tenancy and got me to get my own flat. I go to work everyday and I have a lot of friends here.”

The number of people presented to Ipswich Borough Council as homeless between April 2008 and March 2009 was 342.

Supporting People in Suffolk receives an �18million grant from central government to fund housing related support services. Suffolk County Council manages the grant on behalf of Supporting People in Suffolk.