Ipswich: More to be done to help homeless

PLUMMETING temperatures and the coldest start to the winter for years has exposed deep cracks in the provision for homeless people in Ipswich, it can be revealed.

Housing charities in the town have worked with Ipswich Borough Council (IBC) to help find shelter for people in the severe weather but borough leader Liz Harsant said more needs to be done.

A recent count discovered there are around 13 people sleeping in doorways, flimsy tents, old disused warehouses and other temporary shelters in the town centre.

But that is just the tip of the iceberg, according to Halford Hewitt, chief executive of the Ipswich Housing Action Group (IHAG) who fears the problems run much deeper.

IBC has opened up extra beds at Wilby House in Norwich Road in a bid to tackle the issue, but Mrs Harsant, who is on the board of the Ipswich Umbrella Trust (IUT), said she is very aware the situation is “not very good” in the town.

She said: “We have opened the extra beds, which seems to be the best the council can do, but it is rather left to the charitable sector to pick up the pieces.

“Some people want to sleep rough we can’t change that but for those that don’t I don’t think the provision is wonderful.

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“Which is why the IUT started its work. This year providing shelter at night was not possible but we are hoping in the long-term to provide accommodation at night.

“At IUT we want to provide accommodation and help for people, most of whom have mental health issues or problems with addiction, to work with them to try and take them through into the next stage of their lives with permanent accommodation.”

Mr Hewitt believes there to be hundreds of people in Ipswich living in cramped, overcrowded housing, struggling to secure adequate accommodation and long-term tenancies.

With the financial cuts facing local authorities Mr Hewitt, who is also a board member for national charity Homeless Link, said he fears the situation could get worse.

“The number of people sleeping rough varies. There are many reasons forcing people to sleep on the streets, someone may have an argument with a partner, a person may go out and get drunk and for others it is a more long-term problem.

“In this cold weather, sleeping rough can be life threatening.

“But it is just the tip of the iceberg,” he warned. “There are a whole host of issues surrounding homelessness, including people who are badly housed, who are placed in overcrowded conditions, people who can’t afford a deposit and people who are unable to hold onto a tenancy.”

At the IHAG hostel there are 55 units of accommodation available for single homeless people.

Every year Mr Hewitt said IHAG receive between 200 and 250 applications for their accommodation, highlighting the demand.

n Are you homeless or know someone homeless and want to have a say on this? E-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk. Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN