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Town aims to end rough sleeping despite warning services ‘cut to the bone’

PUBLISHED: 08:00 29 July 2020

Young homeless boy sleeping on the bridge. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Young homeless boy sleeping on the bridge. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

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Plans to keep rough sleepers off the streets of a Norfolk coastal town have been welcomed - despite fears support services have been ‘cut to the bone’.

Graham Plant, deputy leader of Norfolk County Council. Picture: Jamie HoneywoodGraham Plant, deputy leader of Norfolk County Council. Picture: Jamie Honeywood

A Norfolk council has revealed its plan to put an end to the borough’s rough sleeping issue for good after coronavirus was described as the key that got people off the streets.

During the Covid-19 lockdown, Great Yarmouth Borough Council (GYBC) housed 51 rough sleepers and 102 people thought to be at risk of homelessness - with 85 people sheltered by the authority at the peak of the disease.

And now the council has agreed plans to create up to 60 one-bedroom flats to make sure people stay off the streets, with a bid for £6.4m to fund the scheme.

Speaking at a meeting of the council’s policy and resources committee - the authority’s most senior group of councillors - deputy leader Graham Plant said: “It’s really important these people feel they are part of a community.

“A lot of them may have drink or drug issues and mental health problems - issues that are difficult to deal with.

“That wraparound service is the most important thing. If you can put your arm around someone to say ‘we can give you housing and try and train you to do a job’.

READ MORE: How coronavirus cleared a seaside town of rough sleepers overnight, but what happens next?

“I’m happy to support this rough sleeping strategy.”

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While Andy Grant added: “It’s fortunate the tragedy of Covid-19 has given us this opportunity with our rough sleepers.

“For years they wouldn’t engage with us, would hide from us - they wouldn’t even exist. They were on friends’ floors and just wouldn’t engage.”

He added: “There are many who we won’t be able to engage with.

“Their drug addictions are far more poignant to them than us trying to talk to them.

“This is a once in a generation opportunity - this is a time to try and engage with them and change circumstances for the better.”

But Trevor Wainwright added: “Many of these services have been cut to the bone. They need help from social services, from drink and drug services, public health.

“Does this funding we’re trying to allocate take account of that?

“These people in terms of mental health don’t exist. People are being held in police cells because they can’t be dealt with.”

Housing director Nicola Turner presented the report to the cabinet and councillors agreed to back the spend of £6.4m capital spend, as well as a further cost of up to £118,750 of revenue funding.

READ MORE: Town Hall hit with over £1m in ‘irrecoverable losses’ due to pandemic


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