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Suffolk homeless figures fall – but do they show how serious problem is?

PUBLISHED: 16:30 27 February 2020

Ipswich Borough Council leader David Ellesmere and housing portfolio holder Neil MacDonald at the new Homeless Unit in Ipswich which opened last year Picture: IPSWICH BOROUGH COUNCIL

Ipswich Borough Council leader David Ellesmere and housing portfolio holder Neil MacDonald at the new Homeless Unit in Ipswich which opened last year Picture: IPSWICH BOROUGH COUNCIL

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The number of homeless people sleeping rough in Suffolk has fallen again according to official government figures – but there remains concern that this hides the true scale of the problem.

The "snapshot" figure showing the number of rough sleepers counted on a single night in the autumn of 2019 showed 37 people were found to be sleeping rough in Suffolk. There were seven in Ipswich, 13 in both East Suffolk and West Suffolk, and two in both Babergh and Mid Suffolk.

The previous year there were 55 people in Suffolk recorded as sleeping rough.

There was a similar story in north Essex - in Colchester and Tendring the number fell from 19 in 2018 to 14 last year.

These figures follow a trend of falling numbers of rough sleepers since 2016/17 - but still represent higher figures than where numbers were first collected in 2011.

Neil MacDonald, Ipswich council portfolio holder for housing said the borough was working hard with partner organisations, including IHAG, Genesis and the Anglia Care Trust to find pathways out of homelessness for people sleeping on the streets.

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Last year it opened a new homeless centre including space for single homeless people.

And he pointed out that the "snapshot" figure could not be entirely trusted because the homeless numbers were much higher - some people will be "sofa-surfing" and may end up sleeping on the streets for a night or two before finding someone else's home to stay in.

He said the borough had identified 86 "rough sleepers" in the last year - of which 52 had been found beds and were on their way to being established in a new home.

"We are working with our partner organisations and we are helped by a £380,000 grant from the rough sleepers' initiative that is going up to £500,000 this year."

But he warned that some rough sleepers struggled with hostel places and preferred to sleep rough because they did not have to obey conditions that were imposed on them.

The local figures mirror the national picture. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government estimated that 4,266 people were sleeping rough on a single night in autumn 2019. The figure is down 411 on the previous year - a drop of 9% - and down 10% on the peak of 2017.

However, the total is still 2,498 higher than when the figures were first introduced in 2010 - an increase of 141%.


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