Strides made in 'ending homelessness' - but many still on the streets

Sleeping bag outside Palmers

A man rough sleeping in Great Yarmouth town centre outside the Palmers building - Credit: Darren Richardson

A council aiming to "end homelessness" by moving rough sleepers into permanent housing has revealed it is still supporting 26 people in emergency accommodation - down from 173 during the pandemic's first wave.

Building on the work of the Everyone In initiative, which began in March last year, Great Yarmouth Borough Council has teamed up with other voluntary organisations to form a Homeless Alliance.

The aim is to better understand causes of homelessness, and develop preventative services to eradicate it once and for all.

A total of 17 groups are involved, ranging from The National Lottery Community Fund to the Herring House Trust.

But despite getting 173 rough sleepers off the streets when the initiative was first announced, challenges remain.

A rough sleeper's set up outside the old Taco Bell building in Yarmouth town centre

A rough sleeper's set up outside the old Taco Bell building in Yarmouth town centre before Christmas - Credit: Submitted

The council said nine of that original figure are still in emergency accommodation almost a year on, and that a further 17 are being sheltered under Cold Weather Beds funding.

There are also a number of people who are still out on the streets sleeping rough on an evening, sheltering under shop doors in Yarmouth town centre.

Andy Grant, chairman of the housing and neighbourhoods committee, said the council was making huge strides in its "multi-agency approach" to the issue of homelessness.

But he added that the reasons people end up sleeping rough are "various and complex".

Homeless set up Yarmouth

A rough sleeper's set up outside the old Taco Bell building in Yarmouth town centre before Christmas - Credit: Submitted

Andy Grant, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for waste. Picture: James Bass

Andy Grant, chairman of GYBC housing and neighbourhood's committee - Credit: James Bass

Darren Richardson, 54 and living in Gorleston, said the council needs to do more to help get people off the streets.

Moving here from Kent eight years ago, Mr Richardson has dealt with bouts of homelessness during his own life, and often speaks to rough sleepers while out and about.

Darren Richardson photo

Darren Richardson, living in Gorleston, said more needed to be done to help people living on the streets - Credit: Darren Richardson

Last week, he got chatting to a homeless man living outside the now-empty Palmers' storefront. He said the image of the sleeping bag and makeshift set up "really stuck in his craw".

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He said: "I was homeless at 21 because my dad kicked me out. He had kicked me out before at 18 when my ex-partner was heavily pregnant.

"It's much harsher out there, especially with Covid. The police take a stronger approach to rough sleepers, and many have far easier access to drugs and alcohol.

"I think we need more emergency accommodation sites in the area which help people combat their addictions - otherwise the cycle just begins again."