Helping people living on the streets isn’t just about finding them a bed and a warm meal – many need ongoing support if they are to turn their lives around.
West Suffolk councils last week revealed that they are working with a rough sleeper prevention and support officer to try to help the homeless. Rhys Walters has been appointed on two-year long trial after West Suffolk councils, together with Babergh and Mid Suffolk, successively bid for Government funding.
But the work of West Suffolk councils with partners to prevent homelessness and to address the mental health and substance misuse issues that in many cases are associated with rough sleeping, goes much further. These partners include the NHS’s Marginalised Vulnerable Adults team, the police, the probation service, and Turning Point which looks to help people who are misusing drugs or alcohol.
Ruth Croft, youth engagement and triage manager at Turning Point said: “We are really pleased that the councils has been successful in securing the funding for the homeless outreach worker. It is the ability to have a consistent regular presence on the streets that will help people begin to build confidence in the service, which in turn will help this group of isolated a people to gain support to make changes to their situation.
“The Marginalised and Vulnerable Adult (MVA) team and many other local organisations – including an number of faith based groups have worked hard to support those at risk of having sleeping on the streets, this new post will help to bolster people’s knowledge of where they can go for help.
“Turning Point are pleased to work in partnership with the councils, MVA, local faith groups and other community partners to help get people off the streets into appropriate, safe and secure housing so they can continue to address the issues which caused them to be homeless. Our united response can help those vulnerable people who have long term issues to overcome find long term solutions.”
More information about the work of Turning Point is available at http://wellbeing.turning-point.co.uk
A spokesperson for the probation service said: “Being in secure accommodation can help reduce the risk of reoffending and risk of serious harm posed by offenders.”
When an offender is identified as homeless the probation service will work with council housing teams across Suffolk to try to find suitable accommodation and any necessary support.
St Edmundsbury Borough Council is continuing to work to establish a night shelter in Bury St Edmunds ahead of this winter – this will also be part funded by Babergh and Mid Suffolk. But St Edmundsbury has warned that it is unlikely to be able to accommodate all of the rough sleepers from across the four areas. It has called for landlords to get in contact and work with the Council to address the issue. If you have spare time or are a landlord or a business that can offer any form of help, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
West Suffolk councils are also asking the public to report if they see or suspect someone is sleeping rough using www.streetlink.org.uk so that Rhys can speak to them and see if he can help.
West Suffolk councils are aware of 33 people who are rough sleepers in Forest Heath and St Edmundsbury.
In the Bury St Edmunds area, people wishing to help can give their time and/or money to Gatehouse and the Bury Drop-In Centre. You can obtain an application form to volunteer with Bury Drop In by emailing: email@example.com or by calling in at The Bury Drop In during opening hours from 11am to 2pm Tuesdays and Fridays at Trinity Methodist Church.
You can donate provisions to Gatehouse, in Dettingen Way, Bury St Edmunds, IP33 3TU or phone 01284 754967. Its store is open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9am to 3pm and on Saturdays from 9am to 1pm. National and local charities which support homelessness are also available and welcome donations.
You can also donate food to the West Suffolk Vineyard Church Storehouse which distribute food bags. Donations can be taken to its offices at 28 Northern Way, Bury St Edmunds between 9am and 1pm Monday to Friday, or to King Edward VI School on Sunday mornings.