Ipswich to spend £150k on hotels for rough sleepers during coronavirus crisis

PUBLISHED: 11:01 04 April 2020 | UPDATED: 15:32 06 April 2020

A passer by shares his food with a homeless man. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

A passer by shares his food with a homeless man. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN


High-risk rough sleepers are to be taken off the streets of Ipswich during the coronavirus crisis – after £150,000 was made available to put them up in hotel rooms.

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

Yet while welcoming extra government funding to help homeless people during the pandemic, charities in the town have warned it may not be enough longer-term.

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Campaigners had called for more cash after shelters, such as Ipswich’s Chapman Centre, were forced to restrict services to protect staff shortly after the outbreak.

The government originally gave Ipswich £5,000 to help rough sleepers needing to self-isolate.

However on March 27, the government announced that accommodation should be provided for all rough sleepers, to protect both homeless people and the public.

Now Ipswich Borough Council chief executive Russell Williams has authorised £150,000 of expenditure to secure hotel accommodation for the next 12 weeks.

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“The council and other partners are working particularly hard to ensure homeless households and rough sleepers have safe accommodation as they are a high Covid-19 risk group,” a statement from the council said.

“Additional accommodation has been recently secured to ensure there is sufficient capacity.”

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Jools Ramsey, chief executive of Ipswich Housing Action Group (IHAG) - which runs services including the Chapman Centre – said the extra money was “fantastic news”.

But she warned: “As we have been saying for some time, accommodation is the not the only answer to homelessness.

“Dedicated, consistent and long-term emotional and practical support and advice is needed to help those who have become homeless adjust to living within a community, managing their health, wellbeing and finances, and maintaining a tenancy.

“This support is available now, but many charities will suffer financially the longer this pandemic continues and may not be in existence by the end of it.

“Who will offer the support then?”

Outreach workers from IHAG have been touring the streets of Ipswich every day to check on those who are sleeping rough, before liaising with other organisations such as the council about the best way to help those people.

However, Ms Ramsey asked: “What happens when the Covid-19 pandemic has passed?

“Will the accommodation still be available? What longer term plans are there to accommodate people who have been homeless?

“Homelessness is complex. The Covid-19 pandemic has contributed to this complexity.

“Accommodation is a temporary solution for what is, a very long-term problem. The next steps by government and local authorities will be the ones that can truly shape the solutions.”

Those who see rough sleepers on the streets of Ipswich can report instances by email.

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