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Homeless shelter to expand in response to growing number of rough sleepers

Enjoying a cup of tea and the newspaper at the Ipswich Winter Night Shelter. Picture: SIMON PARKER

Enjoying a cup of tea and the newspaper at the Ipswich Winter Night Shelter. Picture: SIMON PARKER

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A vital night shelter is to open for several weeks longer this winter in a bid to curb growing problems with homelessness.

Playing pool at the Ipswich Winter Night Shelter. Picture: SIMON PARKERPlaying pool at the Ipswich Winter Night Shelter. Picture: SIMON PARKER

Ipswich Winter Night Shelter is to get just under £56,000 of additional government funding so it can open for approximately eight weeks longer in its 2018/19 season.

The money, from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, will also allow it to help 15 people during the additional six-week period, as oppose to 12 as it has done previously.

The winter night shelter - which is supported by churches - is now urgently appealing for volunteers to help supervise the centre, which is due to open some time around October.

“By being open for longer, we will hopefully be able to help more people find a solution,” said Julia Hancock, business manager for the Selig (Suffolk) Trust, the charity behind Ipswich Winter Night Shelter.

Enjoying a hot meal at the Ipswich Winter Night Shelter. Picture: SIMON PARKEREnjoying a hot meal at the Ipswich Winter Night Shelter. Picture: SIMON PARKER

“For those who find trusting people difficult, it gives us longer to be able to work with them and hopefully more people will benefit from it.”

The centre, which has an accreditation at “excellent” level under the Housing Justice Quality Mark, is designed to provide a safe and warm place for people to stay overnight during winter when they would otherwise be sleeping rough.

Although the facility is not open during the day, those using the centre can arrive in the evening and be able to shower, have a cooked meal and a bed for the night, as well as breakfast the following morning.

Its organisers believe the centre, which has traditionally opened from November to March, helps to keep people alive during the bitterly cold winter months.

Beds set up at the Ipswich Winter Night Shelter. Picture: SIMON PARKERBeds set up at the Ipswich Winter Night Shelter. Picture: SIMON PARKER

But rather than just providing shelter, volunteers also work with people to tackle the root causes of their homelessness and get them out of poverty.

“The aim is for it to be more than just a bed and that staying in the centre will help them achieve a goal,” said Ms Hancock.

“It might be that they are in very poor health and we want them to stay with us with a view to putting on weight.

“Or it might be that someone wants to find housing - but it’s about making sure that their stay is achieving something.”

One of the homeless in Ipswich is served a cup of tea at the Ipswich Winter Night Shelter by one of the volunteers. Picture: SIMON PARKEROne of the homeless in Ipswich is served a cup of tea at the Ipswich Winter Night Shelter by one of the volunteers. Picture: SIMON PARKER

All guests need to go through a booking process before they can stay.

Some stay for the duration of the night shelter’s opening, whereas others are only there days or weeks.

Homelessness: a growing problem

Nationally the number of rough sleepers has risen consecutively for the past seven years as more people fall victim to financial problems.

One of the homeless in Ipswich enjoy's a cup of tea sat on his bed for the night at the Ipswich Winter Night Shelter. Picture: SIMON PARKEROne of the homeless in Ipswich enjoy's a cup of tea sat on his bed for the night at the Ipswich Winter Night Shelter. Picture: SIMON PARKER

Ms Hancock said: ”A lot of people are homeless but have somewhere to stay.

“If people become homeless without somewhere to stay, it is either because they don’t have any friends or family or because those people either can’t, or won’t, help.

“I think the pressure on families is increasing and there are fewer people with spare rooms.

“It is harder and harder to find a place where you can crash for a while.

“All sorts of pressures mean it’s harder for people to help.”

Those who would like to apply to become a volunteer at the night shelter this winter should visit www.iwns.org.uk

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