Over 800 households who were homeless or facing homelessness, have been helped by West Suffolk Council in the past year.
With winter about to begin, the council, which uses a variety of emergency, temporary and specialist support rough sleeper accommodation, has enough bed spaces in place to meet expected demand.
But it is also preparing for a possible increase in demand next year and is always looking to secure more access to accommodation.
In the year running up to the end of October, the council has helped prevent 212 households from becoming homeless, while it has helped another 626 through temporary accommodation and back into a more settled and permanent home.
Alongside all of this, it is continuing to help people who are homeless and sleeping outdoors – also known as rough sleepers.
On November 1, West Suffolk had nine rough sleepers. It compares to 36 rough sleepers when the council first set up its rough sleeper support service in 2018.
The figure fluctuates regularly as people become homeless or are accommodated, as well as when people lose or leave their place of accommodation. Of the nine, all but one have previously been accommodated and/or refused help. The one that hasn’t been offered accommodation has sufficient income for private rent and we have provided information to him so that he can secure his own accommodation. The rough sleeper support service, which includes specialist in mental health and addiction support, is continuing to engage with all of our rough sleepers to try to help them.
“Homelessness isn’t all about the people we see on the streets, many of whom we have accommodated; the work we do to help those households who are facing homelessness or have become homeless or are living in unfit or unsuitable housing for their needs, is so important,” said Sara Mildmay-White, cabinet member for Housing and Health.
“Equally, by investing in both accommodation and support, we have, over recent years, reduced the number of people who are rough sleeping in West Suffolk. But we can only help people when they are ready to be helped. Sadly, some people are not always ready to accept our help and others have been accommodated and then lost that accommodation due to their actions. We don’t give up, however, and we are continuing to do everything in our power to encourage our rough sleepers to take up the accommodation and support that is available to them.”
If you know or suspect someone is sleeping rough the quickest way to report it is to the council’s rough sleeper service using Streetlink www.streetlink.org.uk – the service then gets an alert and they will go and speak to the person (if they aren’t already) to try to get them the help that they need.
The council also works with the charity Bury Drop In, which helps people who are homeless including people who are rough sleeping. Bury Drop-In not only helps get food and a warm drink but also a roof over their head, support, improved health including access to dental services, education, clean clothes, a job and to reconnect with their families if they want to.
West Suffolk Council is one of a number of partners that supports Bury Drop In’s Looking for Change campaign. The campaign encourages people not to give money to people that they see on the streets. This is because sometimes the people presenting themselves as rough sleepers to people out shopping, are accommodated while in other cases the money they receive is being spent on feeding their addiction, making it harder to get them to engage with the support and accommodation available – in effect keeping them on the streets. Where people are accommodated it may jeopardise their accommodation undoing some of the good work that has taken place to try to help them.
Looking for Change instead challenges people to think about the reasons why they give – and instead give to the charity. The money is then used to help people who have previously been rough sleeping, who have subsequently stayed in temporary accommodation while they got support for any mental health or addiction issues that they may have and who are ready to move into more settled and permanent accommodation.
In Bury St Edmunds, people can support the campaign through a text by typing BSE followed by the amount (so for £5 type BSE5) and send to 70085. You can also donate online at https://burydropin.echoleft.com/fundraising/bury-looking-for-change/donate
In Newmarket, the campaign which was launched by the Newmarket InterFaith Forum and Bury Drop In. People can support the campaign through a text by typing NKT followed by the amount (so for £5 type NKT5) and send to 70085. You can also donate online at https://echoleft.com/fundraising/newmarket-looking-for-change/donate