Ipswich seeing ‘rise in people sleeping on the streets’
Ipswich is “starting to see a rise in people who are sleeping on the streets” following the Covid-19 crisis, the town’s MP was told on a visit to a homeless shelter.
The pandemic caused an “unprecedented number of homeless people” in the town, with Ipswich Borough Council saying there were 203 people - 120 households - in need of urgent accommodation shortly after the start of the crisis.
The council block-booked 35 rooms in a hotel to ensure rough sleepers could self-isolate as transmission peaked earlier in the year. However, government funding to cover the costs of accommodation was only temporary.
Visiting Ipswich’s Chapman Centre for homeless people on Friday, August 7, MP Tom Hunt was told by Jools Ramsey - chief executive of Ipswich Housing Action Group (IHAG) - that rough sleeping now appears to be on the rise.
“I highlighted the fact that the Chapman Centre is supporting 20 to 30 people every day via the phones, and our face to face appointment system which was introduced during July is supporting people with more complex issues,” she said.
“Our outreach workers are now starting to see a rise in people who are sleeping on the streets, and our money advice service is seeing a steady increase in referrals.”
Yet despite the worries, Ms Ramsey said her meeting with Mr Hunt and borough councillor Liz Harsant was “really positive and engaging”.
“The three of us discussed the vital services IHAG has offered during the Covid-19 restrictions, and how well all of the local agencies and Ipswich Borough Council worked together to bring ‘everyone in’ when the government made the call for rough sleepers to be brought off the streets at the beginning of lockdown,” Ms Ramsey said.
“We agreed on the need for the root causes of homelessness to be addressed to enable people to make lasting change, the benefit of local services supporting the needs of local people, and the likelihood that demand on all of the services IHAG offers will increase over the coming months, as the wider impact of the pandemic is felt.
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“Tom was keen to hear how government funding was reaching local agencies on the front line in Ipswich, and what was needed next to ensure local charities survived.”
Mr Hunt said: “It was really good to visit Jools at the Chapman Centre to discuss in detail all they’ve been doing to support some of the most vulnerable over the past few months.
“The current extremely warm weather increases the risk to those who are homeless and living on the street and they are at significant risk of becoming dehydrated.
“It was therefore really pleasing to see all the work IHAG are doing to get supplies including water bottles out to those who need the help the most.
“I share the concerns that Jools has about the challenges ahead and likely that we will see an increase in homelessness.
“I am very glad that IHAG are there to support some of the most vulnerable people within our town and as an organisation they have my full support.”
Ms Ramsey has also said it is “highly likely the numbers of people seeking our support will increase dramatically”.
Neil MacDonald, Ipswich council’s portfolio holder for housing and health, has also warned that there could be a spike in homelessness when the government furlough scheme ends - because many companies will be forced to make tough decisions about people’s employment.
That concern has been echoed by the charity Anglia Care Trust (ACT), which also supports homeless people in the area.
Those who see rough sleepers on the streets of Ipswich can report instances by email.
For more information about IHAG or to donate towards its services, visit its website.
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