Rough sleepers in Ipswich hits five-year high - councillor says numbers could rise

An evening at the Ipswich Winter Night Shelter in 2014. Photograph Simon Parker

An evening at the Ipswich Winter Night Shelter in 2014. Photograph Simon Parker - Credit: Archant

The number of people sleeping rough on the streets of Ipswich is at its highest since 2010, new figures reveal.

Roger Fern at the Ipswich Chamber September Brunch held at The Novotel, Ipswich.

Roger Fern at the Ipswich Chamber September Brunch held at The Novotel, Ipswich.

However, housing chiefs say the actual figure for those without a home in the town may be much higher when taking into account ‘sofa surfers’ and people staying in shelters, hostels and refuge services.

The figures, released under Freedom of Information laws, show last year Ipswich Borough Council (IBC) estimated there were eight people sleeping rough in the town, rising from five the previous year and seven in both 2012 and 2011, but a five person decrease on 2010.

Roger Fern, borough councillor and chairman of the Ipswich Locality Homelessness Partnership, said: “The situation is so volatile and while we have still got evil things like the bedroom tax and benefits being cut for some of the most vulnerable people, I fear that the numbers will go up.”

Local authorities are required to submit an annual figure to the Government indicating the number of people sleeping rough in their area on a typical night.

They can arrive at this figure by means of an estimate or a count, which should take place between October and November.

Mr Fern said the time of year that the count took place could play a part in how many people were sleeping rough on the streets.

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“It varies, I think where this is a falling out or where someone has been evicted, sometimes it is a bit more tolerable to be outside in the summer than when it is snowy and rainy and they think they will put up with it for a little longer before they knock of the door of a hostel,” he added.

A borough spokeswoman said in 2014, the council used information gathered from a range of partners throughout the whole year to come to the estimate.

Rev Paul Daltry, chairman of the Ipswich Winter Night Shelter, which offers an accommodation for three of the coldest months of the year in different churches around the town, said: “National figures show an increase in homelessness in recent years so I wouldn’t be surprised if there are pressures with the system in Ipswich.

“There will always be a challenge because of the lack of appropriate housing and the number of people coming into homelessness for all sorts of reasons.”

Mr Daltry said there were hidden groups, particularly eastern Europeans, who were not able to access services and who were sleeping in cars and in places were the survey would not pick them up. He said two thirds of the 29 people who used the winter night shelter in 2014/2015 were from non-British backgrounds.

Since 2010, IBC has allocated £84,600 of funding to homelessness organisations and charities - £3,000 to Emmaus Ipswich, £8,500 to Anglia Care Trust, £56,000 to Ipswich Housing Action Group and £17,000 to Lighthouse Women’s Aid.

An IBC spokeswoman said: “Our focus will continue to be to try and prevent homelessness occurring but where it does to meet our statutory duties to those people who qualify for assistance.

“We will continue to be an active member of the Ipswich Locality Homeless Partnership to try and address the needs of single non-statutory homeless people.”

The locality partnership was launched in 2012 and is made up of 35 agencies and stakeholders working closely with the police in a bid to rid the town of homelessness and in turn transform the lives of those sleeping rough.