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Hundreds of people in need supported with temporary accommodation in west Suffolk over past six months

PUBLISHED: 10:00 26 September 2020 | UPDATED: 17:06 29 September 2020

West Suffolk Council has received Government funding of £174,000 for 2020/21 for preventing and reducing rough sleeping. Councillor Sara Mildmay-White is pictured (far right) Picture: WEST SUFFOLK COUNCIL

West Suffolk Council has received Government funding of £174,000 for 2020/21 for preventing and reducing rough sleeping. Councillor Sara Mildmay-White is pictured (far right) Picture: WEST SUFFOLK COUNCIL

WEST SUFFOLK COUNCIL

More than 400 households in west Suffolk have been offered emergency housing in the six months since the coronavirus lockdown was introduced, a council has revealed.

Amanda Bloomfield, CEO, Gatehouse Caring Picture: GATEHOUSE CARING/PENNY MORGANAmanda Bloomfield, CEO, Gatehouse Caring Picture: GATEHOUSE CARING/PENNY MORGAN

This figure is for those who have been housed in bed and breakfast (B&B) and other temporary accommodation during this time and includes a small number of people who had been rough sleeping, West Suffolk Council said.

The council put in 15 temporary cabins for a six-month period from the beginning of July to help prevent rough sleepers returning to the streets and at further risk of Covid-19.

Now West Suffolk, which employs a Rough Sleeper Outreach team with specialists in mental health and addiction, has secured £174,000 from the government’s Next Steps Accommodation Programme.

The money, for 2020/21, will go toward the costs of the cabins, hotel and support costs. The council is, however, seeking further clarification over bids for funding for the following three years, as it says this is crucial for its long-term planning around how it will support people in a sustainable and lasting way.

Founder of Bury Drop In, David Bonnett  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNFounder of Bury Drop In, David Bonnett Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

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Sara Mildmay-White, West Suffolk cabinet member for housing, said: “Over a number of years, the council has been making great strides in helping people away from rough sleeping through support and accommodation.

“Prior to this pandemic, we had seen the number of people rough sleeping in West Suffolk reduce from 36 in September 2018 when our Rough Sleeper Outreach Team was first formed to eight in January 2020.

“The Covid-19 crisis has put extra challenges in our way around how we support and accommodate people.

“While we are aware there are still some people rough sleeping in West Suffolk, we continue to speak to them to try to get them to accept the support and accommodation available. We are working not just to further reduce rough sleeping, but also to prevent rough sleeping from reoccurring – and this funding will help towards that work.”

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The council said earlier this week that it currently has 111 households in temporary accommodation including people who had previously been rough sleeping.

At the start of the year they had 79 households in B&B and temporary accommodation, which rose to 89 by the start of March.

Last week, a council spokesperson said there are currently four people sleeping outside compared to eight at the beginning of the year.

The Gatehouse and Bury Drop In charities have been helping to provide food and other essentials to the most vulnerable.

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Amanda Bloomfield, of Gatehouse, which includes a foodbank and furniture re-use store in Bury St Edmunds, said: “Gatehouse has been pleased to work with West Suffolk Council and other agencies to enable those needing emergency housing and fleeing domestic violence to have good quality essential furniture and appliances for their new accommodation.

“Throughout April and May Gatehouse helped move 15 different households. The local community were very generous in responding to our appeals and helping us to make socially-distanced collections of donations.”

She said since June they had opened again to the public and demand for essential items such as beds, sofas, cookers and fridge/freezers had been “much higher” than before Covid-19.

The charity has also been able to work with local supermarkets to provide good quality food items, cleaning products and toiletries at a discounted price.

David Bonnett, of Bury Drop In, added: “Some people move in and only have the clothes they stand up in. We have been giving beds, chairs, tables, cookers, washing machines. A lot of this has come through the Looking for Change initiative. That’s what it was designed for - to go directly to people.”

He said the public has responded “amazingly” to requests for donations on Facebook.


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