'I think it's petty'-Homeless charity criticises boarding up

Work to boarded up entrances to the former Debenhams store in Norwich.

Work to boarded up entrances to the former Debenhams store in Norwich. - Credit: Simon Parkin

Homeless charities have criticised the decision to board up the former Debenhams store in Norwich. 

The entrances were a popular spot for homeless people to shelter from the elements. 

But after the now empty department store closed to shoppers on May 15, the cover is no longer available for rough sleepers. 

A spokesman for the House of Genesis organisation, which works with ex-offenders, described the move as a "bad decision". 

He said: "I think it's petty as it was not doing anyone any harm.

"It's a decision by people who do not have a clue about what it's like to slip through the gaps, which is very easy to do. It is not just alcoholics. Lots of people can be only two pay packets away from it.


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"Whoever boarded it up should spend a night on the street." 

End of an era for Norwich's Debenhams store

Debenhams in Orford Place Norwich has closed for the final time. - Credit: Archant

Dr Jan Sheldon, chief executive officer for St Martins Housing Trust, said a person who is sleeping rough is 17 times more likely to be the victim of crime or abuse.

She said: "Debenhams doorway has long been used by people sleeping rough as it offers a degree of shelter from the elements.

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"A doorway is never a long-term accommodation solution, and it shouldn’t be a short-term one either.

"If someone is sleeping on the streets this is the strongest possible indicator that something is seriously wrong for that person and they need specialist help and support."

Dr Sheldon said St Martins' vision is that nobody should have to resort to rough sleeping in the city, and anyone sleeping rough should be offered accommodation as quickly as possible.

During 2020/21, a total of 646 people received support from St Martin's resettlement service and it continues to support over 200 people in a wide variety of accommodation projects.

The scheme is being delivered by St Martins Housing Trust. Pictured is chief executive Dr Jan Sheldo

The scheme is being delivered by St Martins Housing Trust. Pictured is chief executive Dr Jan Sheldon. Picture: St Martins - Credit: Archant

Dr Sheldon added: "At St Martins, we want to increase compassion in our community towards people experiencing homelessness and our efforts as a charity, and as a society, should be to provide the housing and support people so desperately need not to think that sleeping in a doorway is acceptable."

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