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Homeless shelters look to Ipswich for inspiration after tough new Covid rules on rough sleeping

PUBLISHED: 05:30 15 October 2020 | UPDATED: 08:34 15 October 2020

Julia Hancock is preparing the new Ipswich Winter Night Shelter site for its 2020/21 season. Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND

Julia Hancock is preparing the new Ipswich Winter Night Shelter site for its 2020/21 season. Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND

Charlotte Bond

Shelters for rough sleepers across the country are looking to Ipswich for inspiration as strict new government guidelines ban communal sleeping areas due to Covid risks.

Julia Hancock. The new night shelter  for the homeless is preparing the site for the winter  Picture: CHARLOTTE BONDJulia Hancock. The new night shelter for the homeless is preparing the site for the winter Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND

The shelter, run by Selig Suffolk, usually rotates around different church halls every night, however restrictions on rough sleeping have warned against the sharing of spaces unless “the balance of risk means lives might otherwise be lost”.

Julia Hancock, charity manager for the shelter, said they are lucky to have begun work on plans for a permanent base in 2018, long before the new guidelines were released this Tuesday.

“The guidelines convey the anxiety about the health risks of communal sleeping areas and shared facilities,” she explained.

“Our old model would now require a lot of cleaning, whereas we are fortunate to have applied for planning permission before the pandemic and started work during August so knew what we would need to do to be compliant.

The new site for Ipswich Winter Night Shelter is being prepared.  Picture: CHARLOTTE BONDThe new site for Ipswich Winter Night Shelter is being prepared. Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND

“Other charities in the country aren’t as lucky and we really are the exception.”

The new facility is located at the former site of the Queen’s Head pub at 1 Civic Drive, one floor below the shelter’s offices.

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The charity was previously based at the St Nicholas Centre and the application for the new site attracted some criticism from councillors concerned by the potential impact on the immediate area.

The new Ipswich Winter Night Shelter site is being prepared. Picture: CHARLOTTE BONDThe new Ipswich Winter Night Shelter site is being prepared. Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND

To counteract the risk of infection, five private bedrooms are being built, each with their own en-suite bathroom to ensure guests can self-isolate if they do catch the virus.

Vinyl floors are being put in place for easy cleaning, as well as a dishwasher and fridge in the dining room to prevent any guests needing to go into the separate kitchen facility.

For the first time ever, there will also be bedrooms, bathrooms and other private facilities for staff to use when at work.

The charity has drastically cut the number of volunteers in half and employed more full time staff to reduce the number of people coming into contact with guests.

Miss Hancock added: “It is going to be an amazing resource for quests and staff and it would not have been possible without donations and the community support.

“The balancing of need against risk is an uncomfortable decision for anyone to make. With the furlough scheme ending and evictions rising people could be becoming homeless very quickly.”

The Ipswich Winter Night Shelter has been selected by Housing Justice as a case study for other shelters to learn from.


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