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See inside new outreach bus helping to fight homelessness in Ipswich

The new Ipswich Outreach bus. Picture: IAN WALTERS

The new Ipswich Outreach bus. Picture: IAN WALTERS

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This is the new £25,000 outreach bus brought in to take the fight to homelessness in Ipswich - by bringing help directly to people on the street who need it.

The new Ipswich Outreach bus. Picture: IAN WALTERSThe new Ipswich Outreach bus. Picture: IAN WALTERS

Suffolk's county town has become renowned for its dedicated multipronged attack on the issue, with several organisations such as the Chapman Centre, Ipswich Borough Council and Ipswich Winter Night Shelter joining forces to tackle the problem.

Their efforts, along with additional government funding, have helped reduce the number of rough sleepers and, crucially, provide more long-term support for those at risk of homelessness.

But Ian Walters of Ipswich Outreach, which runs the town's soup kitchen, noticed that while volunteers were handing out much-needed sustenance there were often underlying problems that needed addressing.

As such, after tireless fundraising, Ipswich Outreach has bought a new bus for £25,000 to do just that.

The new Ipswich Outreach bus. Picture: IAN WALTERSThe new Ipswich Outreach bus. Picture: IAN WALTERS

Complete with meeting rooms and vital equipment, it will allow workers from other agencies the chance to take homeless people aside, talk to them about what has led them to their plight and put in place plans to fix it.

It could help to transform the town's approach to homelessness and change people's lives - but at cost of between £10,000 and £15,000 a year to run, donors are being asked to help keep the vital service going into the future.

"We've run the soup kitchen since 1992 but I've noticed that a lot of the people we help are not just homeless but are also people who are struggling to get by," said Mr Walters.

"A lot of people who come down to the soup kitchen surprisingly just come for someone to talk to.

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"It's lovely if we can therefore get someone down who can help them with their problem. We've had to pass lot of people onto services in the past but often by that stage you've lost them.

"We've therefore purchased a purpose-built bus to get other agencies to work with us and get them out on the street, rather than behind a desk.

"It's not for people to sleep on but for people to work on the street to make life easier and to offer an extra service on top of what we already provide."

Last year additional funding from the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) helped the Ipswich Winter Night Shelter open for several more weeks.

That helped give organisers more time to help people at risk of long-term homelessness and the reduce rough sleeping.

Mr Walters said the problem of homelessness was improving but added that "we still keep digging away".

He said may people assume the solution is simply - give rough sleepers a home.

But he said: "It's not all about having somewhere to live.

"It's about getting them back to their old lifestyle and trying different approaches to get them back to the mainstream.

"There's a lot of work that has to be done before you even think of moving them in somewhere unless you can address those problems.

"It's not black and white like the public think."

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