Homeless initiative for east Suffolk

NEW moves are taking place to try to prevent problems of homelessness in the Suffolk Coastal area.Officials say the scheme is already having a success – with fewer people now seeking urgent advice to deal with housing needs.

NEW moves are taking place to try to prevent problems of homelessness in the Suffolk Coastal area.

Officials say the scheme is already having a success – with fewer people now seeking urgent advice to deal with housing needs.

Suffolk Coastal council and the charity Coastal Homeless Action Group (CHAG) have teamed up for the venture, with each taking a particular role.

The council has agreed to take the lead in housing advice and prevention of homelessness while CHAG is concentrating on supporting people to live independently.

"It is recognised that both organisations have, in the past, worked separately on the same problem," said Chris Slemmings, Suffolk Coastal cabinet member for housing.

"Over the last year we and CHAG have looked at the range of problems local people face and have devised the most cost effective approach to tackle homelessness in the district.

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"There is a complex range of problems facing people in our district and this agreement outlines how we will work together to tackle them.

"We want to provide a better service, offering more help and choice, which at the same time is also more cost-effective.

"During the pilot period of the new agreement the number of people presenting themselves to the council as homeless actually decreased which proves that we are getting it right."

The number who need help to find and maintain accommodation has increased over the years.

But Suffolk Coastal has provided housing advice to 250 people so far this year compared to 450 in the whole of last year. Similarly CHAG has seen 304 people this year compared to 556 last year.

By working together the two organisations are confident that they are often able to prevent homelessness.

The work CHAG concentrates on is to give people the skills with which to live independently in the community. This helps prevent people periodically experiencing homelessness.

"The area is well known for its high house prices, high rents and large number of second homes," said Jim Overbury, director of CHAG.

"These factors meant that there are very few low cost homes available to people on 'local wages'.

"By working together the two organisations hope to maximise the number of low cost homes and thus to give people who are facing homelessness at least some choice.

"This new agreement is a fantastic opportunity to really improve the lives of people who are at the bottom of the heap but at the same time will save the state a lot of money as the cost to the public purse when someone is picked up as homeless is very high."

CHAG has helped more than 6,000 people since it was set up 19 years ago, and has regularly received grant aid from Suffolk Coastal.

How would you solve the housing crisis in east Suffolk? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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