Dozens of people sleeping rough in Great Yarmouth

Stuart, 38, has been sleeping outside Poundland in Market Gates, Great Yarmouth for nine weeks. Phot

Stuart, 38, has been sleeping outside Poundland in Market Gates, Great Yarmouth for nine weeks. Photo: George Ryan - Credit: Archant

Dozens of people are sleeping rough in Great Yarmouth town centre as the freezing weather draws in.

According to figures released by the housing charity Shelter, there are 154 homeless people in the borough, putting it in the top 20 in the region.

However the true figure is likely to be much higher, the so-called hidden homeless, who are not known to the authorities.

Paul Higgs from the Refreshingly Different Community Projects group runs various activities aimed at helping homeless people across the borough.

'We run a couple of projects one from our Nottingham Way shop serving hot drinks in the winter and cold drinks during the summer.

'Both shops pass on their information to others if they wish to be housed. At our Northgate shop we use this to store many items for the homeless things like shoes, jumpers, coats, scarves etc.

'On a daily basis we meet up and walk around town looking for the homeless and give them these items including duvets, we also now collect toiletries which are given to The Salvation Army to use for showers.'

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On some walkabouts as many as 30 people are sleeping rough in the town, however Mr Higgs added: 'although this does at times seem hard to believe when sometimes we go out and do not find anyone.'

Earlier in the month hundreds of hats and scarves were donated to the homeless after Leigh Storey organised an event in St George's Park.

The 45-year-old who lives in Lichfield Road was once homeless herself in London, and she knew how comforting a warm hat could be.

She arranged a similar event last year for people to donate coats.

Former rough sleeper Adrian Brown, 61, used to sleep in a tent near the town's Asda supermarket for four years, after many more previous years of homelessness. Now he has a job and lives in a bedsit in Middle Market Road.

'I got used to the cold,' he said. But he knew the dangers and recounted a story of a friend of his who died after sleeping in the cold on a bench in the park.

Stuart

Homelessness is never more visible than when you see someone sleeping in a shop doorway.

Stuart, 38, has lived around Great Yarmouth since he was 16. He has been sleeping in a doorway outside Poundland in Market Gates for the last nine weeks.

He spends most of his day in the same spot near the bus station, often reading a book, currently one about Genghis Khan and his sons.

'The council said I was not a priority to be housed, which is horrible. I'm a recovering addict for one and I have mental health problems,' he said.

'I'm in a situation where people think I'm on the streets so Ic'm on drugs. People ask me to score for them.'

He said not everyone who is rough sleeping is on drugs, adding: 'There is a risk of me relapsing which I don't want to do.'

'Occasionally people buy me a cuppa or say do I want a pound for a cup of tea.

'Yesterday I want all day without eating. Luckily today I have got a sandwich.'

This is the second time he has been homeless, after spending a year on Gorleston High Street in the past.

Stuart is waiting to hear back from support workers at the Northgate Hospital to see if he can be homed.

In the meantime he is still forced to sleep rough as the cold winter nights draw in.

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