Norwich night shelter launches campaign to bring people in from the cold

The bishop of Norwich The Rt Revd Graham James collecting for charity at Harford Bridge Tesco store.

The bishop of Norwich The Rt Revd Graham James collecting for charity at Harford Bridge Tesco store. Pictured with, left to right, Tesco community champion Christina Martin, vice chairman of St Martins Housing Trust Kate Daynes and store manager Jon Whittaker. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

A fundraising campaign to extend a Norwich homeless shelter has been launched, in a response to an increasing number of rough sleepers on the city's streets.

The Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Rev Graham James, visited the Tesco store in Ipswich Road yesterday to start the ball rolling by collecting donations from shoppers.

St Martins Housing Trust, the charity that runs the Bishopbridge House shelter, in Gas Hill, is looking to raise £180,000 to provide accommodation to increase its capacity from 30 beds to 36.

Bishop Graham said: 'I'm glad to be doing all I can to support a charity that is very imaginative in the way it goes about doing its work.

'At Christmas it's a very important thing to do because at Christmas you think about how important your home is.'

Derek Player, general manager of St Martins Housing Trust, said: 'We're very pleased to have the Bishop's support. I know in the House of Lords he takes an interest in housing issues and I know he has always taken an interest in our activities as the city's homelessness charity.'

He said the shelter had seen a demand unmatched by previous years. He said: 'We're seeing more people on the streets than we have for many, many years and the reasons for that are complex, but they include people coming out of prison with nowhere else to go, the problem in the private rented sector and also the introduction of universal credit,'

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'The situation hasn't been this challenging for many, many years.'

Bishop Graham said that despite the charity being set up back in the 1970s, when it was run from a garage in the Cathedral Close, the need for its services had not seen a decline.

He said: 'The need for it hasn't gone away because we're not building the houses that we need and an increasing amount of family breakdown means more housing is needed.'

Mr Player said seeing an increasing number of rough sleepers was taking its toll on staff at the hostel.

He said: 'It can be upsetting for staff involved in St Martins to see the numbers we are getting at the moment.

'They want to do as good a job for everybody and we haven't got the beds free for everyone that needs one at the moment, so it is quite upsetting, particularly as the weather gets colder. We can't wait to get these additional beds up and running.'

From December 1 the shelter will have volunteers collecting money on the streets of Norwich.

Mr Player added: 'Christmas shoppers have always been generous towards the homeless and we look forward to another good fundraising campaign.'

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