Increase in number of rough sleepers in West Suffolk as councils receive funding to help them

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Councils in Suffolk are to step up their efforts to help those at risk of becoming homeless and sleeping rough.

St Edmundsbury Borough as well as Forest Heath, Mid Suffolk and Babergh District Councils have, with other Suffolk partners, secured just under £100,000 in Government funding to tackle the issue.

It follows a rise in the number of rough sleepers in West Suffolk over the last three years.

Part of the funding will be used to employ a rough sleepers prevention and support worker to help people at risk of homelessness and prevent them from ending up on the streets.

They will also work with rough sleepers to get them off the streets.

Their aim is to help the individuals overcome the issues which led to their situation.

A spokesman St Edmundsbury and Forest Heath said: “This fits in with our wider Families and Communities strategy which broadly takes the approach that prevention is better than cure.”

St Edmundsbury Councillor Julia Wakelam, who helped set a night shelter on Church Row in Bury St Edmunds in 1987 said: “Some people through no fault of their own become homeless or have to sleep rough and it is such a shame that this is happening to real people on our streets.

“If this role can be used to help these people before they are faced with going onto the streets it can only be a good thing.”

Homeless people are classed as a person or people without a regular dwelling.

Rough sleepers are defined as people sleeping, or bedded down, in the open air or in buildings and other places not designed for habitation.

In St Edmundsbury, the estimated number of rough sleepers has increased from three in 2014 to seven in 2015 and 15 in 2016.

There are currently four in Haverhill and 11 in Bury St Edmunds.

In Forest Heath, the estimated number has risen from two in 2014 to four in 2015 and six in 2016.

There are currently two in Mildenhall, three in Newmarket and one in Brandon.

In Mid Suffolk, there were none in 2014, two in 2015 and one in 2016.

In Babergh there were none in 2014, two in 2015 and seven in 2016.

Bury St Edmunds business owners have also noticed the rise and have spoken to Mark Cordell, chief executive of Ourburystedmunds, who has assured his members.

He said ‘positive outcomes are being achieved within a very short timescale’ giving an example of one rough sleeper who was found accommodation in Bury within 24 hours.