Is this our chance to eliminate rough sleeping in Ipswich?

25 May, 2020 - 05:59
Ipwich Borough Council want to use the coronavirus crisis to solve the homelessness issue in the town  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Ipwich Borough Council want to use the coronavirus crisis to solve the homelessness issue in the town Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN


The lockdown requirements have brought challenges to all of us. But it has been extra difficult for those without a home, writes Ipswich Borough Council leader David Ellesmere.

Living without a permanent roof over your head or, worse, sleeping rough is hard enough during ‘normal’ times. During a public emergency such as this, the position is far worse.

Right from the start Ipswich Borough Council has made looking after vulnerable residents a priority. This is why we block-booked rooms for more than 30 people in a local hotel and put others up in bed and breakfast accommodation to ensure no one had to sleep rough on the streets of Ipswich during this crisis.

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But we know we must look forward. Our hotel block booking will end next month, and we cannot just throw people back out on to the streets. We are developing plans to ensure everyone housed there has somewhere appropriate to move to and that they receive the help and support they need – so that no one has to return to rough sleeping.

Finding accommodation for homeless people is one thing but many have little or nothing in the way of possessions to enable them to successfully restart their lives in a new home. I want to – again – thank Direct Line Group for their generous donation of £100,000 to fund starter packs for families and individuals moving into our temporary accommodation facilities. We have already started buying a range of goods – bedding, toys, electrical items, kitchen utensils – things most of us take for granted.

I would also like to thank local ceramics café Pennikity Pots who have helped entertain homeless families by supplying a range of craft items for them to decorate.

If there is one good thing to come out of this crisis it is that we have given many homeless people a genuine chance to make a new start. We must, as a country, ensure that we do not squander this opportunity and allow the levels of rough sleeping we saw before the virus to return.

That means ensuring we have enough temporary accommodation and that there is good personal support for homeless people but, crucially, that we greatly expand the amount of genuinely affordable housing available too.

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