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Number of beds for Ipswich’s homeless need to increase, says charity leader

PUBLISHED: 06:45 14 January 2020 | UPDATED: 08:45 14 January 2020

Ipswich Housing Action Group (IHAG) would like to double to number of beds it has available for single homeless people. Picture: THINKSTOCK

Ipswich Housing Action Group (IHAG) would like to double to number of beds it has available for single homeless people. Picture: THINKSTOCK

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A homelessness charity is looking to double the number of beds it has available in a bid to stem the tide of an expected rise in people being left destitute.

Jools Ramsey, chief executive of Ipswich Housing Action Group (IHAG). Picture: ANDREW PAPWORTHJools Ramsey, chief executive of Ipswich Housing Action Group (IHAG). Picture: ANDREW PAPWORTH

Ipswich Housing Action Group (IHAG), which runs the Chapman Centre for people who are homeless or at risk of being out on the street, currently has 55 beds for single homeless people in the town.

But Jools Ramsey, who recently took over as chief executive of IHAG from long-serving Halford Hewitt, said: "We'd potentially like to grow that," adding that her "aspiration is to double it".

Ms Ramsey has warned that homelessness is likely to get worse in Ipswich due to "perfect storm" of cuts to vital services and difficulties in the housing market.

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Even though a recent headcount in the town recorded seven rough sleepers, a large reduction on previous years, she said: "We know that's not a true reflection of how many people are actually homeless."

As such she believes services to help people facing hardship need to continue to increase, as they consistently did over the 27 years that her predecessor Mr Hewitt was leading IHAG.

In particular she would like to see round-the-clock services for people who are without a home of their own.

"With our partners, we could have a wrap-around service," she said.

The Chapman Centre currently offers its clients a free breakfast to give them valuable sustenance at the start of the day, as well as access to showers to keep clean.

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But Ms Ramsey, who has spent her career working at local authorities and charities such as Ormiston Families Trust and Solace Women's Aid, said: "Wouldn't it be great if we could have an evening meal."

However she is also clear that simply providing more shelter and housing will not, on its own, resolve the problem - as homeless people need support to tackle to causes of their dilemmas.

"That will have much longer-term benefits than simply placing someone in a hostel," she said.

"Providing safe accommodation means their safety is ensured.

"It's then about looking at their mental health and the holistic, wrap-around support.

"If we don't address that, there is likelihood of it happening again.

"We have to put that person at the centre and allow them to prioritise their needs in their time."

IHAG has expanded the radical "Housing First" project it is working on jointly with Ipswich Borough Council, Orwell Housing and Anglia Care Trust to give the most entrenched rough sleepers keys to their own home for the first time in years, no questions asked.

After a successful year-long pilot, 12 people are now benefiting from the scheme - but Ms Ramsey says its success lies not in the provision of housing but the daily efforts of a dedicated support worker.

However she that "unrestricted funding is what we need" to be able to provide everything she feels is necessary to stem the tide of homelessness.

IHAG - which helps 3,000 people a year with its services, which also include money advice - needs £1.1million a year to survive.

It has traditionally raised most of the funds it needs by successfully applying for various grants, with just £10,000 coming from supporters.

However with the government cutting the amount of money it gives to councils, IHAG expects that might reduce and believes it will need to increase the amount of money it raises from the public.

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IHAG is also part of the Ipswich Locality Housing Partnership (ILHP), a group of organisations which work together in the town to provide a consistent approach to tackling homelessness.

The ILHP also includes Ipswich Borough Council and the Selig (Suffolk) Trust, which runs Ipswich Winter Night Shelter.

For more information about IHAG or to donate towards its services, visit the IHAG website.

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