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Sixty homeless people housed after coronavirus brings surge in Norwich sofa surfers seeking help

PUBLISHED: 06:27 27 April 2020 | UPDATED: 06:27 27 April 2020

Maria Pratt, director of homeless services for Norwich-based St Martins Housing Trust, which leads The Pathways project. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Maria Pratt, director of homeless services for Norwich-based St Martins Housing Trust, which leads The Pathways project. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2016

Some 60 homeless people have been given temporary accommodation in Norwich - after coronavirus meant some who usually sofa surf ended up without anywhere to sleep.

Kevin Maguire, Norwich City Council cabinet member for safe and sustainable city enviornment. Pic: Archant Library.Kevin Maguire, Norwich City Council cabinet member for safe and sustainable city enviornment. Pic: Archant Library.

So-called sofa surfers are often dubbed “the invisible homeless”, as they do not show up in rough sleeping statistics.

Instead they stay at the homes of people they know. But the coronavirus lockdown, with its social distancing measures, meant some arrangements broke down, so people had nowhere to stay.

Workers at The Pathways project in Norwich - a partnership between seven organisations helping homeless people - said there had been a surge in sofa surfers needing support.

Maria Pratt, director of homeless services for Norwich-based St Martins Housing Trust, which leads The Pathways project, said: “We had a keen eye on what was happening. We drew up a list of people who we had been in contact with three weeks before the lockdown.

“We knew who was sleeping rough or not and who had accessed our services, so that gave us a clear picture. We knew there were people who did not want to go to a hostel and were staying with friends and family.

“We had a list of about 60 people and we worked with the city council to say ‘these are the people we have concerns about’.

“And then we started to see people fall out of accommodation “They could no longer stay with friends and family and they came to us very quickly.

“We’ve also been out every single day, going to all the different places we know people tend to be.”

Ms Pratt said some with drug and alcohol issues were receiving treatment for the very first time.

Norwich City Council has housed about 60 people since the government said local authorities must accommodate them.

Kevin Maguire, the council’s cabinet member for safe and sustainable city environment, said places had been found in small hotels. He said: “Everyone who is a rough sleeper, so long as we know about them, has been accommodated.”

But he said the government needed to do more to ensure the help continues after the pandemic is over. He said: “The worry is that, when all this is over, will the government still show the capacity to help with this? We will be relying on the city’s MPs to hammer this home.”


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