What is being done to tackle homelessness in Norwich?

Rough sleepers in the doorway of Debenhams at Red Lion Street, Norwich, on Tuesday October 18 2016.

Rough sleepers in the doorway of Debenhams at Red Lion Street, Norwich, on Tuesday October 18 2016. Photo: Archant - Credit: Archant

About 20 people a night are sleeping on the streets of our city – but according to the council, 15 of them could have accommodation if they wanted it.

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That shows the problem councils and charities face when dealing with the rise in the number of rough sleepers.

Some people do not want to be housed, while others who are given accommodation return to the streets. So how do you break that cycle?

Of the 20 rough sleepers on a recent count in Norwich, 15 were known to the city council and four of those already had accommodation.

Another 11 could have a hostel place if they wanted it, and eight of those 11 had previously abandoned hostels in Norwich, according to the council.

File Photo. Image: PA

File Photo. Image: PA - Credit: PA


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Last week the council said seven homeless people refused offers of help.

It is a barrier which must be overcome to reduce the rise in the number of rough sleepers in the city.

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And Norwich, Broadland and South Norfolk councils have come up with a five-year plan to tackle rough sleeping called the Greater Norwich Homeless Strategy.

It hopes to reduce homelessness by targeting those most at risk, helping people find affordable housing and supporting them to become independent again.

Barry Allard, founder of LEAP and The Feed. Photo: Submitted

Barry Allard, founder of LEAP and The Feed. Photo: Submitted - Credit: Archant

The latest figures from housing charity Shelter show 64 families with children in Norfolk are classed as homeless.

The Greater Norwich report found there had been an increase in young people made homeless who have been thrown out by parents or have come through the care system.

Almost 40pc of homeless people in Norwich from 2008 to 2013 were aged from 16-24, according to the report.

And the homeless strategy found the most common way councils avoided homelessness was to help people remain in their own home by helping in negotiations between tenants and landlords.

Norwich City Council said their housing advice team prevent on average more than 500 cases of homelessness a year.

They are also working on a rough sleeper strategy which they hope will 'break the cycle of homelessness for people with multiple and complex needs'.

But getting housing is just part of the solution.

Barry Allard, who founded Norwich social enterprise LEAP to help offenders and homeless people, said the most effective way of dealing with the problem was to change the attitude of those needing help.

LEAP, which is supported by the city council, teaches people skills to keep a roof over their head and the training it gives includes motivational courses.

'You can give people a house, but if the root cause is not dealt with they will be homeless again or out of a job again,' Mr Allard said.

LEAP has a project called The Feed which helps tackle homelessness and re-offending by training people up for catering jobs.

It is are hoping to open a stall in Norwich Market in the next few months which will sell Norfolk produce.

The social enterprise has an impressive success rate, with 97pc of people helped by it staying off the streets and holding down a tenancy.

And more than 80 people have found employment through the LEAP scheme.

One person it helped, Paul, was referred to LEAP before he was released from HMP Norwich.

He had a history of alcohol abuse and had been homeless.

But LEAP said he was determined to find a job and a home on his release, as well as staying away from alcohol.

Paul, not his real name, was homeless when he left prison and came to LEAP at Open on Bank Plain.

Over the next seven weeks, he attended coaching sessions at LEAP.

He also got accommodation with St Martins Housing Trust, and arranged a job interview with a cleaning company.

He was offered the job and now rents his own place.

LEAP said Paul also now had plans to become self-employed.

What is the city council doing?

Norwich City Council runs various schemes to reduce the number of rough sleepers.

Those schemes include:

•It has a rough sleeper co-ordinator who gives support to the homeless. That person visits people on the street and encourages them to get help.

•It funds hostels and supported accommodation for rough sleepers. Norwich has 350 hostel and supported accommodation beds.

•It gets people off the street in extreme cold weather by giving emergency accommodation

•It holds a housing advice service twice a week at City Hall for anyone homeless or at risk. That team helps people with accessing hostels, gaining housing in the private sector or finding a place to rent through the council's LETNCC scheme

•A team at Pottergate Arc Lifehouse meets people every morning to help them find somewhere to stay

•The council also gets empty homes from landlords which can be rented

•It also finances a team operated through St Martins Housing Trust which visits people on the street with the homeless co-ordinator.

•Anyone who sees someone sleeping rough should report it to www.streetlink.org.uk or call 0300 500 0914

•Do you have a story about homelessness? Email tom.bristow@archant.co.uk

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