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Why are some rough sleepers reluctant to accept help?

PUBLISHED: 11:00 21 March 2018

A homeless person in a street in Norfolk. Picture: Ian Burt

A homeless person in a street in Norfolk. Picture: Ian Burt

Archant 2018

There are measures in place to help rough sleepers find a place to sleep, but some are reluctant to accept help.

Emergency shelters, soup kitchens and temporary accommodation are there to act as a lifeline for the homeless.

But West Norfolk council housing officer Duncan Hall said one reason some may not accept help is due to their mistrust of authority,

“They may have had a bad experience in the past, being referred to accommodation that didn’t work for them,” Mr Hall said. 
“I think some people find accommodation, particularly hostel accommodation, intimidating. They may think ‘I can’t be safe, if I take myself off I can find somewhere quiet’. When that trust has been broken, when they don’t want to engage it’s an upward struggle to get them to engage.”

But he said outreach services for rough sleepers are helping to win back that trust, as well as a better understanding of their needs.

The council is working on a number of initiatives as part of its new homelessness and rough sleeping strategy.

Mr Hall said they include looking at different accommodation suitable for different people’s needs. 
“Diversity of these accommodation has to reflect reality,” he added. “A lot of these people are vulnerable and may have behaviour that would mean, in some circumstances, that they’ll be out.

“You don’t end up housing people securely and permanently overnight, gradual steps allow people to make mistakes.

“Accommodation needs to be flexible around behaviour, where we can say ‘actually, you messing up doesn’t mean a cardboard box.”’

In West Norfolk, the winter night shelter in King’s Lynn has extended its opening hours to seven days a week. Since December it was only open every Friday and Saturday.

Campaigner Jo Rust said: “I’m relieved that the need for a night shelter has at last been recognised. It’s not an admission of failure to acknowledge that rough sleepers take many months to go through the necessary steps to be able to enter into supported living.

“There are too few places available to accommodate everyone in need instantly.”


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