Ipswich fighting a losing battle on homelessness, campaigners say
PUBLISHED: 17:29 10 October 2019 | UPDATED: 17:30 10 October 2019
Homelessness is a battle Ipswich "cannot win" unless it gets greater support to deal with the problem, campaigners have said.
The Selig (Suffolk) Trust and Ipswich Outreach joined forces 18 organisations across the town for an event at the town's Cornhill to mark World Homeless Day,
According to Ipswich Outreach, which runs the town's soup kitchen, it is seeing more and more people in need of food, drink and medical attention.
For founder Ian Walters, it is not just an issue of rough sleeping but increasing numbers of people battling mental ill health, substance abuse and problems with the Universal Credit benefits system.
It has also been reported there are as many as 1,200 people at any one time trying to find shelter in the town, with a large number of those "sofa surfing" or staying with friends.
Mr Walters said: "What we've seen in recent years is a real increase in the people using our services.
"When I first started in 1992, there were six people that regularly visited us - at it's peak we've had more than 80 people turn up, but I'd say we average around 40 people every night who come for a variety of reasons."
Mr Walters, who is a full-time carer for his wife, said it is a pleasure to help the less fortunate.
However he said more needs to be done for a battle they simply "cannot" win.
He added: "We need to get more people involved to help us help people - we can give people a hot cup of tea and some soup, but we aren't qualified to help with all their needs.
"But in Ipswich, I would say we are tackling the problem really well - there will always be homelessness but together we are doing the best we can. The police and the council have also been a big help."
Mr Walters and his team served more than 200 cups of tea to those in need on the day, prompting organiser Julia Hancock to regard the day as a great success.
Ms Hancock, from Selig - which runs the Ipswich Winter Night Shelter - added: "It has been a great day, people have been having really deep and engaging conversations with each other to better understand their situations.
"We need to run more events like this in the future to highlight the fantastic work we are achieving together."