‘People are sofa surfing’ – Scale of Ipswich’s homelessness problem revealed at charity AGM

Sofa surfing is a growing issue, Ipswich CAB bosses said Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto/ANTONIOGU

Sofa surfing is a growing issue, Ipswich CAB bosses said Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto/ANTONIOGUILLEM - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Preventing homelessness before it happens may help to solve growing numbers of cases tackled by Citizens Advice in Ipswich, bosses have revealed.

Ipswich CAB President David Sheepshanks OBE, guest speaker and solicitor at Shelter Julie Wheeler, b

Ipswich CAB President David Sheepshanks OBE, guest speaker and solicitor at Shelter Julie Wheeler, board chairman Robert Charles Boxall-Hunt and Manager Nicky Wilshere Picture: ARCHANT - Credit: Archant

The true scale of rough sleeping and homelessness in the town – and the impact it has on affected individuals – was laid bare at the charity’s annual general meeting.

Guest speaker Julia Wheeler, a solicitor with Shelter, presented latest government figures and shed light on the situation on a local and national level.

Recent rollouts of Universal Credit were also mentioned, with charity chiefs warning of its impact throughout winter.

According to latest government figures, 40 people were considered ‘unintentionally homeless’ in Ipswich for the period January to March 2018.

This is down by seven people from the same period the previous year, when 47 were in this category.

Meanwhile, there were 21 rough sleepers in autumn 2017, according to latest government data – this is down 22% from 2016.

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And although both figures have decreased, Ms Wheeler and Ipswich CAB’s deputy manager Nelleke van Helfteren said they do not show the full picture.

Last year, the charity dealt with over 1,000 housing complaints.

Ipswich Citizens Advice Bureau's deputy manager Nelleke van Helfteren Picture: ARCHANT

Ipswich Citizens Advice Bureau's deputy manager Nelleke van Helfteren Picture: ARCHANT - Credit: Lucy Taylor

“The figures are hard-hitting when you see them, but actually you’ve got to look beyond them,” said Ms van Helfteren.

“There are far more people sleeping rough than just 21. There is no way that’s the whole picture.

“There are people sofa surfing, outstaying their welcome with friends, people at home who shouldn’t be – ‘chadults’ I call them – a mix of children and adults.

“Some have rent issues, others face problems with guarantors and landlords not accepting them or making it difficult for them to find somewhere to live.

She added: “I would say our plea to people is to come and see us as soon as you have a problem.

“There are so many coming to us with debt, rent arrears, and my plea is to come and see us earlier, we can help.

“We want to stop homelessness before it happens – it’s about preventing it.”

The introduction of Universal Credit has also had a knock-on effect on rent and debt issues, Ms van Helfteren added.

“We have seen a significant increase in people coming to us with Universal Credit problems,” she said.

“At the moment it’s still early – it only arrived fully in Ipswich in April, and we don’t know how much of an impact it will have during winter.”

Her remarks come as government officials announced Ipswich was due to receive thousands of pounds to help support frontline initiatives.

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