With the winter weather set to fall below freezing for a number of consecutive nights, West Suffolk councils, with the support of a local church has of today opened a temporary night shelter for the homeless.
Although the centre will be based in Bury St Edmunds, it will cater for rough sleeper from across West Suffolk. The councils stress that this is a temporary measure while it works with Havebury Housing Partnership to recruit staff for a more permanent winter night shelter in the town.
Councillor Sara Mildmay-White said: “We already support people to find accommodation – we are using over 100 units of temporary accommodation, including bed and breakfast, hotels and hostels whilst we help people to find more settled homes. The interim shelter will be our last resort and will only open when all other avenues have been exhausted.
“The shelter will work by referrals made to the housing team up to 5pm each day day– people can’t just turn up and those that are referred will have to arrive at a set time.
“Referrals can be made by phoning 01284 757178. The person referred will then need to come into West Suffolk House for an initial risk assessment. We can make arrangements for those who are homeless outside of Bury St Edmunds.
“There will be shelter rules – these are to safeguard the other residents using the building, as well as our staff and volunteers. If the rules aren’t followed, then just as with any shelter, those responsible will be told to leave. Equally there will be a risk assessment of each individual as they arrive.
“We will review the shelter’s use each day and if we have been able to accommodate people elsewhere or if they refuse to accept the accommodation at the shelter, we will not open.
“While I am sure most people will welcome this move, I also want to be realistic. Some people we know, will not accept the support that we, or other organisations offer – and we cannot force them to accept our help.
“Equally we know that there are some people that our local residents see on our streets, who are not in fact homeless. In many cases we have found accommodation for them, which is why we always prefer people to give their money to those local charities that help the people who are in need.”
The night shelter is just one way that West Suffolk councils works to help prevent homelessness from occurring and tries to get the proper support for those who are rough sleeping.
Since January, the councils have assisted or prevented more than 450 households from becoming homeless. It works with partners who are specialists in mental health and wellbeing as well as substance misuse. Often people who are sleeping rough have complex needs and through the work of a support officer, the councils try to get the necessary help for those people who are sleeping rough in an attempt to help them get off the streets and stay off the streets.