Affordable housing is final key to prevent homelessness

Personal experiences of sleeping rough were discussed during the ThinkIn at the EDP and Norwich Even

A homeless person living on the street - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Affordable homes provision is the final piece of the puzzle to stop people ending up on the streets.

That is the urgent message from Dr Jan Sheldon, chief executive of St Martins homeless charity, as figures show the numbers of people sleeping on Norwich's streets at any one night this year was between five and 12.

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

Dr Jan Sheldon, chief executive of St Martins - Credit: Archant

And the city had the highest number of people sleeping on the street compared to other local authority areas in the east of England, according to Shelter's Homelessness in England 2021 report.

Findings in the shocking report revealed nearly 15,000 people are homeless in the east of England, including almost 7,000 children.

As part of that 14,000 are in temporary accommodation.

Dr Sheldon said Norwich was one of the best cities in the country for its homeless support from the city council and the numbers of people sleeping on the streets were lower than in previous years.

In 2016 there were 34 people sleeping on the street after an annual street count.

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But she said: "One person on the street is one too many. It has an impact on their physical and mental health."

And the trends behind why people are ending up homeless are changing, she added. 

The chief executive said many people who were homeless were previously "just about managing" to pay bills and stated: "We are starting to see people really struggle because of Covid. If you lose your job you could lose your relationship and that causes a cycle of homelessness."

And a solution could be in sight, with Dr Sheldon saying the government's 'Everyone In' scheme in lockdown proved every homeless person could be given a place to stay in 48 hours.

She added three main factors that helped stop rough sleeping were political will, funding and affordable homes.

"We don't have enough social housing," she said.

Homelessness mainly affects men aged 24-35 and other reasons people faced homelessness were people who lived through trauma, gone through the criminal justice system or grown-up in care.

Chris Hancock, housing partnerships officer for Norwich City Council, said preventative measures were most important in stopping people ending up homeless ad the city had many housing options.

Visit www.stmartinshousing.org.uk