Council rescues nearly 600 struggling Ipswich families from homelessness
PUBLISHED: 09:48 10 October 2020 | UPDATED: 09:48 10 October 2020
Nearly 600 struggling households in Ipswich have been saved from homelessness since April - the equivalent of three a day.
Coronavirus has already caused an “unprecedented number of homeless people” in the town, with Ipswich Borough Council having to block book bed and breakfasts and 35 rooms in a hotel to house rough sleepers at the height of the pandemic.
Since then economic hardship has worsened, with unemployment nearly doubling - as 3,005 more people claimed out of work benefits between March and July this year.
As organisations across the town mark World Homelessness Day on Saturday, October 10, many are braced for a further rise in rough sleeping and sofa surfing as job losses soar and evictions for rent arrears increase.
However Neil MacDonald, Ipswich Borough Council portfolio holder for housing and health, said the authority and others are determined to “continue the work to find secure and sustainable homes for those in need”.
Since April, the council’s housing options team has prevented or relieved 580 household threatened with homelessness, or which actually had lost their homes.
It has also given bed and breakfast accommodation to 17 former rough sleepers, as daily sweeps of the town centre on average find up to five rough sleepers a day.
Mr MacDonald said: “The issue for the winter this year is that there will be more homeless people.
“More people will be made unemployed, and landlords are now allowed to evict people for not paying rent.”
Homelessness had been falling in Ipswich prior to the pandemic.
A multipronged attack by agencies such as IHAG and the Ipswich Winter Night Shelter - which is due to start its winter season in November - helped to cut daily rough sleeper numbers from nearly 30 to just over 10 last year.
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Mr MacDonald added: “Rough sleeper numbers in Ipswich have significantly reduced since the start of the Rough Sleeper Initiative but there is always a flow of new people onto the streets that need help.
“We are very proud of the work we have done with our partners and will continue the work to find secure and sustainable homes for those in need.
“Rough sleeping is often confused with begging and the team will continue to work with the whole street community to encourage safer and healthier choices.”
What is being done to help Ipswich’s homeless?
■ Help Our Homeless has been able to support rough sleepers with mobile phones to enable them to keep in touch with support agencies.
Most statutory and voluntary agencies, are only providing a phone support service - so a mobile phone is key for helping those in need.
Help Our Homeless has also awarded a grant of £400 for mattresses for the new Ipswich Winter Night Shelter.
■ Emmaus Suffolk has delivered more than 700 mental health packs to vulnerable individuals including people in temporary accommodation as a response to Covid-19, as well as street homeless, people in hostel accommodation and those that are shielding with pre-existing conditions who are highly vulnerable.
■ Ipswich Housing Action Group (IHAG) has continued to run its services, like the Chapman Centre for homeless people and its free money advice service to help prevent debts stacking up.
It also does a daily “street sweep” to look for rough sleepers who can be helped, on provides an in-reach service to work with those newly-housed or at risk of eviction.
■ Ipswich Soup Kitchen has also continued its nightly service throughout the Covid period, serving food to up to 35 people each night.
Ian Walters, of Ipswich Outreach, which runs the soup kitchen, said: “With many agencies having to close their buildings, we have been able to act as a gateway to connect those with an issue to the relevant team who although not able to open their doors were still offering a full outreach service. All this is only achieved through the great agency partnership that the town has.”
How can I help?
The public can help, too, by reporting when anyone is seen sleeping rough to Ipswich Borough Council’s Streetlink team on 0300 500 0914, or to email@example.com.
If you need to seek advice about your own or possible homelessness, call Ipswich Borough Council’s housing options team Monday to Friday on 01473 433033.
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