Impending cold snap prompts west Suffolk councils to open temporary night shelter
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With temperatures due to plummet to below freezing for a number of consecutive nights, West Suffolk councils, with the support of a local church, have opened a temporary night shelter for the homeless.
Although the centre will be based in Bury St Edmunds, it will cater for rough sleepers from across west Suffolk. This is only a temporary measure while the councils work with Havebury Housing Partnership to recruit staff for a more permanent winter night shelter in the town.
Local 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 – people can’t just turn up and those that are referred will have to arrive at a set time. Referrals can be made by calling 01284 757178 and the person referred will need to go into West Suffolk House for an initial risk assessment.
Ms Mildmay-White continued: “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.
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“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.”
She added: “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.”
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Since January, councils in west Suffolk have assisted or prevented more than 450 households from becoming homeless. They work 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 help rough sleepers to get off - and sty off - the streets.