More people could be forced to live on the city's streets after furlough ends this month, a homelessness charity boss has warned.

Dr Jan Sheldon, chief executive officer of St Martins, said there had been a significant decrease in the number of people sleeping rough.

At the end of August this year there were 13 people who were homeless compared to 34 in 2016.

Dr Sheldon said the reason for the drop was partly because of the government's Everyone In project which ran in lockdown to put all homeless people in accommodation.

But she warned: "We are going to have furlough stopping and I would imagine by early to mid October we will see the financial impact of that. I am pretty sure we will see more people who are currently just about managing to pay rent or mortgages on the street.

"People shouldn't be on the streets - it is 2021 not 1821. It is dangerous and we know these people are 17 more times likely to suffer verbal and physical abuse.

"It is traumatic and will have a significant impact on people's health.

"Things can spiral out of control and one unplanned life event can knock someone sideways because they don't have a support network."

She said Norwich's homeless community was relatively low compared to other parts of the country and praised the work of Norwich City Council.

Out of all the people in Norwich helped by Everyone In, 87pc (109 people), were in secure accommodation.

Norwich Evening News: The former Greek Orthordox church on Recorder Road in Norwich which is now the Somewhere Safe To Stay hubThe former Greek Orthordox church on Recorder Road in Norwich which is now the Somewhere Safe To Stay hub (Image: © ARCHANT NORFOLK 2011)

Men and women were also being helped by the St Martins' Somewhere Safe to Stay Hub on Recorder Road, which opened in November 2020 and offers 15 temporary rooms.

But to continue to help the homeless, Dr Sheldon believed the country as a whole needed more affordable housing and there should be greater financial support from central government.

In Norwich the typical age of homeless people was between 35 and 42 and 75pc were male compared with 25pc female.

Dr Sheldon said most people were not on the street because of alcohol or drug abuse but could become addicted while sleeping rough.


How St Martins helps people off the street

A 28-year-old man who receives help for alcohol abuse through St Martins has spoken of how his life was severely affected by the closure of gyms.

Before the lockdown Jimmy had stopped drinking and was staying in St Martins’ dry house.

His main therapy was going to the gym.

He said: "The gym helped me to deal with my negative emotions and my addiction issues. When it stopped I was just left with all my unresolved issues. It screwed me totally."

Jimmy did not have the strength to continue his recovery due to lockdown and took up drinking meaning he couldn't stay at the dry house.

But he took up a room at the charity's Bishopbridge House hostel.

After refocusing on his health, he is looking forward to getting a home of his own adding: "That’ll be true independence.”