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Charity's big plans to reduce homelessness across the city

PUBLISHED: 16:39 30 July 2019 | UPDATED: 16:39 30 July 2019

Andy Baker, Pathways support worker, giving out free food to Mark Digby, 56, who is homeless in Norwich, during the July heatwave. Picture: SOPHIE WYLLIE

Andy Baker, Pathways support worker, giving out free food to Mark Digby, 56, who is homeless in Norwich, during the July heatwave. Picture: SOPHIE WYLLIE

SOPHIE WYLLIE

A charity boss has big ambitions to dramatically reduce homelessness in Norwich.

Dr Jan Sheldon, chief executive of St Martin's charity. Picture: St Martin'sDr Jan Sheldon, chief executive of St Martin's charity. Picture: St Martin's

Dr Jan Sheldon, chief executive of St Martins, which helps homeless people off the streets, said: "By 2021 we want the number of homeless people in Norwich to be in single figures."

The main way it hopes to do that is through its government-funded Somewhere Safe to Stay scheme, which will provide between 15 and 18 beds in a new hostel on Recorder Road from this autumn, if approved.

Another major idea is the Housing First project which would provide a minimum of 20 beds and specialised services in homely environments.

This could start at the end of next year, depending on funding and housing stock, and the charity would work alongside Norwich City Council to find appropriate properties.

Dr Sheldon said: "The number of people sleeping on the streets is not acceptable. St Martins is needed now more than ever."

She described the impact of homelessness on a person's well-being as "devastating".

"They don't want to be in that position. It impacts on every aspect of their life including mental health. That is not a position anyone should be placed in," Dr Sheldon added.

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St Martins, which employs 150 staff, runs Bishopbridge House hostel on Gas Hill which has 37 beds.

It also runs other services across the city supporting people's physical and mental health as well as helping people with drug and alcohol misuse problems.

A big part of what St Martins does is getting people off the streets, into accommodation and into employment and supports 200 people at any one time.

Describing Housing First, Dr Sheldon said: "We will put people into apartments and wrap services around them."

On the last Norwich street count in November 2018, there were 21 homeless people, a 30pc decrease compared to the November 2017 count when 30 people were recorded.

The national decrease in numbers of rough sleepers from November 2017 to November 2018 was 2pc.

Dr Sheldon added: "The people of Norwich are really supportive."

She advised people not give money but advice on where to get help.

Visit www.stmartinshousing.org.uk

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