Shock at homeless figures

SUFFOLK is failing to meet the needs of its homeless families and has greater problems now than three years ago, it has been claimed.Figures released by homeless charity Shelter reveal the number of households in temporary accommodation in Suffolk has increased by 5% since 2003, with 500 families now classified as homeless.

By Danielle Nuttall

SUFFOLK is failing to meet the needs of its homeless families and has greater problems now than three years ago, it has been claimed.

Figures released by homeless charity Shelter reveal the number of households in temporary accommodation in Suffolk has increased by 5% since 2003, with 500 families now classified as homeless.

However, during the same period, Norfolk has reduced its total from 1,024 to 536 - a 48% drop - while Essex has also seen the numbers fall by a third.


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The true picture of homelessness in the county has emerged as charity leaders and MPs prepare to discuss the issue in a major public debate, believed to be the first of its kind in the region.

Environmental campaigners, planners, builders, charities and members of the public are set to meet in Cambridge on Thursday to discuss whether enough is being done to tackle the housing crisis.

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Families or individuals are classified as homeless if they are living in emergency accommodation.

This means they are either living in self contained bedsits leased in the private sector, local authority housing let on a temporary basis, bed and breakfast hotels or hostels.

Wil Gibson, chief executive of rural campaign charity Suffolk Acre, said the county's homeless problem was probably much worse than figures showed.

“We suspect from the information we have gathered anecdotally that there are a number of people technically homeless but not on anyone's register. You have people sleeping at friend's houses on the settee. We do not know the real extent,” he said.

“I am not convinced we are doing as much as we can collectively to address the issue. We still have issues in getting affordable housing developed across the county.

“Although there are eastern region growth areas along the M11 corridor, that's not going to address the issues for the more rural parts of the county. Suffolk and Norfolk are still under pressure to find affordable homes both on the market and social housing.”

Shelter's figures show Waveney has more than double the number of households in temporary accommodation than three years ago, from 77 to 160. Both Babergh and Forest Heath have also seen big rises.

Ipswich currently has the highest number in the county at 234, but this is 11% lower than in 2003.

Scott Bailey, Shelter's regional campaigns officer for the East of England, said: “We are aware some local authorities in Norfolk have being doing a lot in leasing private sector homes to address temporary accommodation targets.

“What's really significant is local authorities in Suffolk are also trying to do something about temporary accommodation but it has still increased by 5% in three years and that indicates the housing crisis really is a crisis. There is a chronic shortage of affordable housing, particularly socially rented homes.

“What we need to see is a change in delivery, bringing forward more socially rented homes through the planning process and more affordable housing so it can mitigate the impact of temporary accommodation.”

nMembers of the public are invited to join the housing debate, which will be chaired by the BBC's Inside Out presenter David Whitely. The event will take place at the Guildhall, Cambridge, on Thursday between 6.30pm and 9pm. RSVP to debate@shelter.org.uk.

danielle.nuttall@eadt.co.uk

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Households in temporary accommodation

Local authority 2003 2004 2005 2006 % change 2003-2006

Suffolk

Babergh 2 29 38 23 1050%

Forest Heath 16 13 23 26 63%

Ipswich 264 217 223 234 -11%

Mid Suffolk 6 5 3 4 -33%

St Edmundsbury 32 5 5 5 -84%

Suffolk Coastal 78 83 87 48 -38%

Waveney 77 135 126 160 108%

Suffolk Total 475 487 505 500 5%

Essex total 3,064 3,224 2,914 2,040 -33%

Norfolk total 1,024 1,132 865 536 -48%

Cambridgeshire total 467 481 545 473 1%

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