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'Not everyone who begs is homeless' - shelter gives advice on safe ways to help

PUBLISHED: 11:59 24 November 2019

The Ipswich night shelter has opened it's doors once again for the homeless at St Mary's at Stoke Church  Hall.

The Ipswich night shelter has opened it's doors once again for the homeless at St Mary's at Stoke Church Hall.

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The Ipswich Night Shelter has opened its doors for the winter to accommodate the 'constant flow' of rough sleepers.

The Ipswich night shelter opened its doors at St Mary's at Stoke Church  Hall in 2014 and is hosted in five different churches this year. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNThe Ipswich night shelter opened its doors at St Mary's at Stoke Church Hall in 2014 and is hosted in five different churches this year. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

The 100 volunteers have all completed at least one shift across the five town centre churches which are hosting the charity.

Julia Hancock works for the Selig Suffolk Trust which runs the project and she has spoken about the difficulties faced by people facing homelessness.

"Housing remains an issue for many people.

"It doesn't take a lot for them to realise they don't have anywhere to stay and they end up on the streets.

"There are no statistics on the hidden homeless and that is really hard because we just don't know enough."

Julia attributes the decrease in the number of rough sleepers to Ipswich Council's rough sleeper initiative as it's now in the third year where the benefits can be seen.

But unfortunately there will still be homeless people on the streets and she is keen to ensure the public are aware of how to help someone in a meaningful way.

She said: "It's important to know that unfortunately not everyone who is begging is homeless.

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"I can say that unfortunately most people begging are doing so because they are using drugs and if you give them money they will be spending it on drugs.

"I would actively discourage people from giving out money and I say that from cold hard facts and experience."

Julia once saw a person who had come to the shelter in a state after they had been gifted £180, and spent it all on heroin.

"They survived but they hated themselves for it," she added.

Julia explained that the issue is when someone is on drugs they are unlikely to be accessing services and without those they are vulnerable.

There have been several cases whilst she has been working at the shelter where homeless people have been victims to attacks because they are on drugs.

But it is also key to know how to approach someone on the streets and offer help.

Julia said: "If you want to give a homeless person something ask. You never know they might have had 10 coffees and just want a bottle of water or all they've eaten that day is McDonalds and they just want a sandwich.

"Also they may not be hungry so don't assume you know what they want.

"Just ask."

The Ipswich Winter Night Shelter offer showers, beds and hot meals whilst the nearby Chapman Centre has free phones and computers available to use.

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