New winter homeless shelter in Bury St Edmunds opens

The Public Accounts Committee has said the Government's approach to tackling the problem has been an

The Public Accounts Committee has said the Government's approach to tackling the problem has been an "abject failure". Picture: YUI MOK/PA WIRE - Credit: PA

A new night shelter in Bury St Edmunds – which can cater for up to 16 rough sleepers from across west Suffolk – has opened.

West Suffolk councils together with Havebury Housing Partnership have now recruited specialist care staff which will allow the shelter in part of Northgate Lodge to open every night during the winter until the end of March.

Earlier this month, the council, with the support of Garland Street Baptist Church, set up an emergency temporary night shelter in Bury at The Elven Centre in Garland Street.

The emergency centre has been run by volunteers from the church, The Bury Drop-In Centre, as well as council staff.

The new shelter will be by referral to the housing team, and will offer additional facilities and the chance for people to engage with services.

Residents and businesses can show their support by donating items, such as toiletries for men and women, towels, bedding, toilet rolls, washing powder, tea and coffee, to the shelter.

These can be taken in to both Havebury’s reception and the reception desk at West Suffolk House. Items can also be taken into Tayfen House.

News of the opening comes as a damning report described the Government’s approach to tackling homelessness in England as an “abject failure”.

Nationally, more than 9,000 people are sleeping rough on the streets and over 78,000 households, including 120,000 children, are homeless and living in temporary accommodation, often of a poor standard, according to the Public Accounts Committee.

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At the end of November, 22 people in St Edmundsbury, including 16 in Bury St Edmunds and six in Haverhill, were reported as sleeping rough, along with seven people in Forest Heath.

Sara Mildmay-White, West Suffolk councils’ cabinet member for housing, said: “I want to say a huge thank you to the Garland Street Baptist Church, The Bury Drop-In Centre and the volunteers from partner organisations and the council’s own staff, who have stepped in and help run the emergency shelter during this freezing cold spell.

“I would also like to say a huge thank you to all those local residents and businesses who have reached out and offered to help.

“I am delighted to have Havebury’s support in helping us set up the night shelter and I hope that those people who are sleeping rough not just in Bury St Edmunds, but across west Suffolk, will use it to get off the streets during these cold nights.

“We are realistic to the sad facts that some people we know, will not accept the support that we, or other organisations offer – and we cannot force them to accept our help.

“Equally we know that there are some people that our local residents see on our streets, who are not in fact homeless.

“In many cases we have already found accommodation for them, which is why we always prefer people to give their money to those local charities that help the people who are in need.”

Karen Mayhew, chief executive at Havebury Housing Partnership, said: “We are pleased to work in partnership with West Suffolk councils to provide the winter night shelter at Northgate Lodge and to accommodate those in greatest need.

“The increase of street homelessness is a stark reality, and we are keen along with other organisations, to address this acute challenge.

“It is a regrettable but necessary extension to the services we have provided for many years through our direct access hostel at Tayfen House.

“We would like to thank local residents for their kind and generous donations of much-needed items following our social media appeal.

“We know this is an expensive time of year for many families, so their generosity is particularly wonderful.”

There will be shelter rules to safeguard other people using the building and anyone breaking these rules may be asked to leave.

Referrals from across west Suffolk can be made by phoning 01284 757178.