More effective communication needed to reduce homelessness in Sudbury, says community hub
A key leader at a community hub in Sudbury says effective communication must be established between the local authority and voluntary organisations to tackle homelessness in the town.
Concerns over rough sleepers camping in tents were raised at a recent town council meeting, which prompted Teresa Bishop, who manages The Christopher Centre in Gainsborough Street, to call for a more effective approach to the issue.
She said housing rough sleepers is often only half the problem when individuals face other underlying issues.
“They can have mental health issues, addiction problems, or both, and these things need to be addressed,” she said, adding that rules under the current housing system can prove virtually impossible for some individuals to abide by.
“You can’t fit square pegs into round holes,” said Mrs Bishop. “People with mental health issues have a very different mindset to an ordinary person.”
Mrs Bishop said the reasons for individuals turning down temporary accommodation, which involved relocating out of the town, are often misunderstood.
“Sometimes, it looks as though they are being ungrateful if they don’t accept bed and breakfast accommodation if it means moving out of Sudbury,” she said. “But if their mental health doesn’t allow for that change, their refusal will be seen as they can’t be bothered to accept help, which is not true.”
The Rev Canon Cheryl Collins, from St Gregory’s Church, has allowed a rough sleeper, a man in his 30s, to camp in her front garden, while he awaits a more permanent housing arrangement.
“He was worried about where to safely pitch a tent and I don’t think anybody’s going to come into my garden to vandalise it,” she said.
Highlighting the issue surrounding strict housing rules and regulations, Mrs Bishop said the stringent guidelines had made the matter worse.
“This is why a lot of hostels have had to close,” she said, adding that vacant buildings in the town should be fully utilised to offer a safe place for the homeless.
“We have so many volunteer groups working with the homeless in Sudbury, that manning somewhere like an empty building would be no problem at all,” she said.
A woman who wished not to be identified was left homeless after falling behind on her rent.
“My mental health was pretty bad and I didn’t know where to go for help,” said the 50-year-old, who receives support from The Christopher Centre.
She has since been offered temporary accommodation in Ipswich, but says she was reluctant at first to accept it as her family live in Sudbury.
Heather Tucker, corporate manager for housing solutions at Babergh District Council, said: “Preventing homelessness is a priority for us – everyone needs somewhere to live and a place they can call home.
“Through our homelessness reduction strategy, we are committed to ending rough sleeping in our district, through working with people as early as possible to prevent homelessness occurring in the first place, and supporting them to secure suitable accommodation.”
Mrs Tucker said individuals were encouraged to notify them of their situation, while dedicated officers regularly visited the town to provide support for individuals found sleeping rough.
“We also work in partnership with StreetLink and closely monitor night time temperatures so we can offer support to anyone in need through our severe weather emergency protocol,” she added.
More by this authorPriya Kingsley-Adam