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Dozens of people still sleeping rough - here's how you can help

PUBLISHED: 08:53 22 November 2019 | UPDATED: 09:49 22 November 2019

The Surviving Winter appeal will this year place additional focus on supporting rough sleepers. Pictures: Archant, St Martins, Thinkstock Images

The Surviving Winter appeal will this year place additional focus on supporting rough sleepers. Pictures: Archant, St Martins, Thinkstock Images

Archant

There is no easy time to sleep on the streets, but when the cold snap of winter hits that experience is even more heartbreaking.

Surviving Winter appeal: Robbie Picture: St MartinsSurviving Winter appeal: Robbie Picture: St Martins

And with temperatures dropping, the number of people sleeping rough across the county remains in the dozens - according to most recent counts.

A walk through the city on a typical Tuesday morning revealed half a dozen people sleeping rough in just one single road, St Stephens Street.

It is for this reason that the plight of rough sleepers and the homeless has been given a more prominent place in the latest Surviving Winter appeal, which we launch today.

Each winter, this newspaper works alongside charities including Norfolk Community Foundation, Age UK Norfolk and the Norwich Foodbank to support vulnerable people throughout the winter months.

Representatives from Norfolk Community Foundation and St Martins launch the Surviving Winter appeal. Picture: NCFRepresentatives from Norfolk Community Foundation and St Martins launch the Surviving Winter appeal. Picture: NCF

In previous years, the main focus of the appeal has been on helping vulnerable or elderly people stay warm indoors, particularly through fighting fuel poverty and isolation.

And while this remains a priority, the appeal will also go towards tackling a shortage of accommodation for rough sleepers.

It comes at a time when dozens of people have been left on the street, with recent figures counting 25 people in King's Lynn, 18 in Norwich and 10 in Great Yarmouth.

On top of this, the most recent quarter - between July and September - saw 100 people resorting to sleeping rough in the city area alone.

However, support providers say a significant part of the challenge is the availability of accommodation for these people.

Helen Baldry, communications officer at St Martins, said: "There are currently services to support rough sleepers but there is simply not enough accommodation because we find that new people arrive on the streets all the time.

"Money raised through Surviving Winter and our own Christmas appeal will go towards our new accommodation project to provide an extra 20 beds in Norwich."

Last year's campaign saw more than £100,000 raised and the cash handed out included £63,000 of grants given to local organisations to support work with vulnerable people, £11,373 contributed towards helping 58 households cover fuel costs and more than £3,500 winter packs distributed to those in need of them.

Claire Cullens, chief executive of Norfolk Community Foundation (NCF), said: "Winter is a worrying time for so many and NCF is stepping up to take action to support those who are vulnerable across the county to help them avoid crisis.

"Every penny that you can donate to the appeal will make a real difference to those in our local communities who are struggling this winter."

David Powles, editor of the Eastern Daily Press and Norwich Evening News, said: "Our readers have always been incredibly generous when it comes to backing our campaigns and this one is vitally important.

"So many of us are lucky enough that Christmas and New Year is a time for love and laughter and to be surrounded by family and friends. But there are many more who are not so fortunate and it is for these whom the appeal will help.

"I know money can be tight for many during the festive period but I do hope people will give what they can and support those in need."

Robbie's story

Robbie has been supported by St Martins for more than 30 years, having spent around 20 years living on the streets in Yarmouth.

He said: "I remember at one point when I was living in Yarmouth I would sleep in skips or just get under flattened cardboard boxes, just to get some peace and quiet and a bed for the night.

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"You're left to sleep with one eye open and one eye shut, because you never know who is about.

"I do not think anybody should be on the streets.

"The first time I went to St Martins it was a real struggle, but they found a bed for me.

"I did not really know where I was, whether it was a church or a house, but I stayed there for a while."

Robbie is now settled at Webster Court, one of the services St Martins offers to people older than 50 years old.

"I know I'm on my way out and I don't have much time, but this is my resting place now."

What the appeal does

Alongside its support for rough sleepers, the Surviving Winter appeal focuses on helping vulnerable people with roofs over their head to battle the winter months.

With the dropping temperatures, the cost of heating homes can become a real financial strain, particularly for those with lower incomes and the elderly.

And with daylight hours more limited it can also become a far lonelier time of the year, so the appeal also works to address isolation.

In past years, moneys raised from the appeal have gone towards a range of purposes, from helping families replace boilers, recover fuel debt and ensure their homes can stay warm.

The appeal also puts funds towards fuel vouchers, issued through the foodbank and 'winter packs' of hats, gloves and scarves.

It also helps to fund services such as Age UK Norfolk's telephone befriending service, which sees regular phone calls made to people who feel alone and isolated.

How to donate

Help elderly and vulnerable people stay warm, fed and sheltered this winter by donating to the Surviving Winter campaign.

The campaign is urging older people who do not need their winter fuel allowance to donate it to those who desperately do, as many are faced with choosing between paying the bills and putting food on the table.

Funds raised in the appeal will be distributed to a range of good causes across Norfolk, including the foundation trust's key partners Age UK Norfolk, Norwich Foodbank and St Martins Housing Trust.

To donate, Visit the Surviving Winter appeal donation page at https://www.norfolkfoundation.com/giving-philanthropy/surviving-winter/ or call Norfolk Community Foundation on 01603 623 958.

You can donate by cheque made payable to Norfolk Community Foundation and send it to Norfolk Community Foundation, St James Mill, Whitefriars, Norwich, NR3 1TN

STILL TO COME: Return to this page tomorrow for a closer look at what it is like to sleep on the streets from a number of people who have experienced it first hand.

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