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New bid to support the homeless with former care home conversion

PUBLISHED: 16:00 13 March 2018

Borough leader David Ellesmere and housing portfolio holder Neil MacDonald at the new Homeless Unit in Ipswich. Picture; IPSWICH BOROUGH COUNCIL

Borough leader David Ellesmere and housing portfolio holder Neil MacDonald at the new Homeless Unit in Ipswich. Picture; IPSWICH BOROUGH COUNCIL

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A new £2.8million scheme will provide accommodation for homeless people in Ipswich - and help them to get their own home.

A courtyard at the new Homeless Unit in Ipswich. Picture: IPSWICH BOROUGH COUNCIL A courtyard at the new Homeless Unit in Ipswich. Picture: IPSWICH BOROUGH COUNCIL

Ipswich Borough Council is spending more than £2.8m to convert a former care home in the town, which closed three years ago after Care UK took over the county council’s nursing homes and built new centres.

Most of the building is likely to be used by homeless families, but there will also be council-run accommodation for individual homeless people for the first time.

The new building - the location of which is not being made public - has 47 rooms, 35 more than the current main homeless accommodation in Ipswich.

Council leader David Ellesmere said this was an additional facility and that other homeless centres in the town, apart from one small building near the town centre, would remain open.

A dayroom in the new Homeless Unit in Ipswich. Picture: IPSWICH BOROUGH COUNCIL A dayroom in the new Homeless Unit in Ipswich. Picture: IPSWICH BOROUGH COUNCIL

He said: “The new building should mean that we don’t have to rely on bed and breakfast accommodation. This will cost us £150,000 a year to run and bed and breakfast costs us £250,000 a year – it is also getting increasingly difficult to find bed and breakfast accommodation.”

The layout of the 1970s building will allow the rooms to be configured as individual bedsits or grouped together to form a flat for a larger family.

The length of time people live in the unit is likely to vary from a few days to several weeks for a family with particular accommodation needs.

The borough still has to obtain formal planning permission for the conversion work – but if that is approved work is due to start in the summer and the new unit should be up and running by spring 2019.

Portfolio holder for housing, Neil MacDonald, said: “There is quite a bit to do here although the basic layout of the building is very good for what we want to do.”

There are three wings to the building – which should make it easy to keep the accommodation for single people separate from that for families.

And new electronic locks will be installed which should make it easier to reconfigure the make-up of the flats or bedsits as the demand at any one time dictates.

Mr Ellesmere said: “It is a struggle to deal with homelessness but we believe this new centre will be very important to help people get back on their feet again.”

Homelessness a growing problem in Ipswich

Ipswich Borough Council leader David Ellesmere said homelessness was a growing problem in the area – and other councils were sending people with nowhere to live to the town.

He said: “We don’t want to put people in bed and breakfasts anyway, but there are only two that are available in Ipswich now because many don’t want to offer accommodation to homeless people.

“And you find people sent to Ipswich from Norwich, from Colchester and other councils in Suffolk which put pressure on the number of rooms.”

To be eligible for accommodation in the new centre, homeless people will have to show they have a real connection with Ipswich – but that could include people who have been moved into the town.

Mr Ellesmere said: “If another council has put a family in the town and they stay here for any length of time, they can then ask us for help as they have an Ipswich connection.”

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