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More entrenched rough sleepers to be handed keys to Ipswich houses in radical homelessness campaign

Ipswich has expanded its successful Housing First project. Picture: ARCHANT LIBRARY

Ipswich has expanded its successful Housing First project. Picture: ARCHANT LIBRARY

Archant 2018

A radical homelessness campaign in Ipswich - which sees people given the keys to their own homes - has been expanded after helping entrenched rough sleepers transform their lives.

Jools Ramsey, chief executive of Ipswich Housing Action Group (IHAG). Picture: ANDREW PAPWORTHJools Ramsey, chief executive of Ipswich Housing Action Group (IHAG). Picture: ANDREW PAPWORTH

The Suffolk town has been trialling the groundbreaking "Housing First" scheme first invented in New York in the 1990s, which gives homeless people a home that is theirs without any strings - regardless of their history or whether they have any addictions.

It has enjoyed success globally in parts of America, Canada and Finland but is still considered revolutionary by some, because homeless people are usually only allowed their own property as a 'reward' for engaging with support services and shelters first.

However a one-year pilot, with funding from clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), has helped six people to turn their lives around when they would otherwise have been on the streets.

As such the scheme has now been given further funding for another year and will now support a total of 12 people - with the hope those people will repay the trust showed to them.

Neil MacDonald, Ipswich Borough Council's portfolio holder for housing and health. Pictire: IPSWICH BOROUGH COUNCILNeil MacDonald, Ipswich Borough Council's portfolio holder for housing and health. Pictire: IPSWICH BOROUGH COUNCIL

MORE: Homeless people given keys to Ipswich house to stop them sleeping rough or sofa-surfing

Jools Ramsey, chief executive of Ipswich Housing Action Group (IHAG) - which has been working with Ipswich Borough Council, Orwell Housing and Anglia Care Trust (ACT) on the project - said giving people their own home means "they re-find their self-worth".

She added: "What we've started to see is that people are incredibly proud of the space that they can call their own."

However she said the most important thing about Housing First is the intensive support it gives to some of the most ingrained rough sleepers.

"Most support services have one or two hours a week to work with someone for six months or so," she said.

"With Housing First, a support worker spends two or three hours a day with them. They build that trust and engage with them.

"When they recognise that they can trust someone, that's where you have real change. It has to be a long-term thing."

Neil MacDonald, Ipswich Borough Council's portfolio holder for housing and health, said: "They key thing with this is that it is the most difficult homeless people that we are working with.

"It's been successful because we've given them their own house first, and then the support to help them make progress.

"They've really responded well to having their own place, otherwise they would just get stuck in a hostel.

"It definitely helps people who are in a chaotic situation."

However, he believes the fundamental problem long-term is the lack of affordable housing available in Ipswich.

Jane Simpson, director of business support at ACT, said: "We are delighted the project has been extended for a further year and we greatly appreciate the opportunity to assist more people.

"To help people to get their own home and to see them take ownership and thrive in it and within their community is really what ACT is about."

■ What do you think of the Housing First approach? Do you think it will work in Ipswich? Vote in our online poll or write, giving your full contact details, by emailing us.


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