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We must work together to tackle Norwich's homelessness problem

PUBLISHED: 17:00 13 February 2019

Dr Jan Sheldon, chief executive of St Martin's Housing Trust. Picture: St Martin's

Dr Jan Sheldon, chief executive of St Martin's Housing Trust. Picture: St Martin's

Archant

Rough sleeping is the strongest possible indicator that something has gone seriously wrong for someone.

The most visible evidence we see of homelessness in our beautiful city is the people who are rough sleeping.

Evidence shows that Norwich is bucking the national trend and reducing the number of people sleeping rough, which demonstrates the support of commissioners and local people is really making a difference.

However, we still have people rough sleeping in the city.

In 2019 this cannot be right. St Martins was founded in the 1970s and I’m sure the foundingtrustees thought they were solving a problem of their day.

By rights, St Martins should not have been a charity with a long term future. The sad fact of the matter is that today we are needed more than ever.

Our new Strategic Plan 2019 to 2021 focuses on three key areas - prevention work, crisis support and sustained support.

At any one time we are supporting in the region of around 200 people, preventing many of them from becoming homeless.

This could be one of the reasons Norwich is bucking the national trend.

Looking to the future we have to be realistic, and accept that we may never totally eradicate rough sleeping.

There may always be a very small number of people who cannot live in accommodation. This may be hard for most of us to understand but we have to accept that we are all individuals and they have their reasons and the right to make that choice (unless they are deemed to be lacking capacity under the Mental Capacity Act 2005).

Our aim at St Martins is to bring the number of people rough sleeping down to single figures that you can count on one hand.

To do this we have to help people understand hat there is more to homelessness than housing.

If someone is rough sleeping it isn’t just about not having accommodation. It is the strongest possible indicator that something has gone seriously wrong for that person.

They need our care and specialist support to start to live the life they want to lead.

As we move towards 2040 we all need to work together to ensure specialist help is available.

We can then support people to live the lives they dreamed of as a child, have the confidence to live independently and feel valued by society.

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