Charity braced for big rise in city’s rough sleepers

Dr Jan Sheldon, right, chief executive of St Martins, and the Dean of Norwich, the Very Rev Jane Hed

Dr Jan Sheldon, right, chief executive of St Martins, and the Dean of Norwich, the Very Rev Jane Hedges, left, with the collecting bucket, as Tesco at Harford Bridges has allowed the charity to collect in their store. With them from Tesco are Christina Martin, community champion, and Charla Scarff, services manager. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2020

The head of a homeless charity has warned more people will be forced to sleep rough after losing jobs through the coronavirus outbreak.

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

Dr Jan Sheldon, chief executive of St Martin's. Picture: St Martin's - Credit: Archant

Dr Jan Sheldon, chief executive of Norwich-based St Martins, said society was facing “the calm before the storm” in terms of the knock-on financial impact.

She said: “Loss of jobs and relationship breakdowns remain the highest causes of people being on the streets. There will undoubtedly be a significant financial impact. Many businesses will close and it could take a decade to recover. This will mean more people will lose jobs and homes which will mean there will be more people sleeping rough.”

Dr Sheldon said the charity had struggled to raise funds this year because of restrictions or lockdowns.

“Our Christmas and supermarket collections have been hit hard at a time when our costs have increased. We are well supported by local businesses and people and they have risen to the challenge to make sure our important work can continue,” she added.

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The charity raised £477 through a Covid-secure collection at Norwich Harford Bridge Tesco supermarket on November 19.

MORE: ‘No-one chooses to be homeless’ - Charity aims to stop common misconceptions of rough sleepersDr Sheldon said that during the first lockdown the “almost impossible” happened when thousands of people were placed into emergency accommodation in 48 hours.

She said: “We know what an impact political will and solid investment can make. Norwich City Council have, as they always are, been very engaged and supportive. We now need to ensure that the momentum is continued and everyone works together to support people when they are at their most vulnerable.

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If someone is sleeping on the streets this is the strongest possible indicator that there is something seriously wrong. They need our kindness, care and compassion and alongside that specialist support. No child grows up wanting to sleep rough – it’s never a life ambition.”

Last week she said there were between 18-20 people on the streets of Norwich, which is slightly higher than last year, but added those numbers should come down because of funding and extra accommodation.

Among the local homeless community, 75pc are men and the main age group affected is between 36 and 45.

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