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‘It doesn’t have to be this way’ - charity boss speaks out after new homelessness report

PUBLISHED: 06:48 12 June 2018 | UPDATED: 07:50 12 June 2018

Homeless man Mark Bruneel talking to EDP reporter Taz Ali on the High Street in King's Lynn. Picture: Ian Burt

Homeless man Mark Bruneel talking to EDP reporter Taz Ali on the High Street in King's Lynn. Picture: Ian Burt

Archant 2018

The boss of a Norfolk charity has insisted there is an “improving picture” when it comes to homelessness.

Dr Jan Sheldon, chief executive of St Martins Housing Trust. Picture: St Martins Housing TrustDr Jan Sheldon, chief executive of St Martins Housing Trust. Picture: St Martins Housing Trust

Homelessness is a big issue in parts of the county, including Great Yarmouth, King’s Lynn and Norwich which has been the focus of a series of police crackdowns on aggressive begging.

Latest figures show the number of people classified as homeless in the city fell from 34 in 2016 to 30 in 2017.

Dr Jan Sheldon, chief executive of St Martins Housing Trust, said the city had an “improving picture” and hoped the number of rough sleepers would fall even further.

She said: “We want to see the number of people rough sleeping in Norwich as close to zero as possible. St Martins is the lead partner of the Pathways service that ensures anybody sleeping rough can access appropriate support at the time that they need it.

“The key to the service, that was commissioned by Norwich City Council in March, is the individualised support applied to each person, made possible by collaborative working.”

Dr Sheldon was speaking following a new report by the Crisis.

The charity estimates there are currently 236,000 homeless people across England, Wales and Scotland, including those living in unsuitable temporary accommodation. It says 100,500 social homes need to be built each year for the next 15 years.

Jon Sparkes from Crisis said: “We must not become a society that simply accepts homelessness as ‘a sad fact of life’... it doesn’t have to be this way.”

Dr Sheldon, who welcomed the report, said a focus of the Crisis plan was on preventing homelessness - something already being done here.

She said: “Our work in the community with people with poor mental health is important because it means those who are vulnerable and experiencing social isolation are supported before their situation gets more serious and they slide into homelessness.

“Our trustees are developing a new strategic plan for St Martins. The objectives are to prevent homelessness wherever possible, deliver crisis support and deliver sustained support.”

She added: “The support we offer is not a sticking plaster but will address their homelessness long term.”

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