Women highlight plight of homeless

SIMPLE changes could made a huge difference to the plight of homeless people, according to a group of north Norfolk women who slept rough in Norwich to experience their problems first-hand.

SIMPLE changes could made a huge difference to the plight of homeless people, according to a group of north Norfolk women who slept rough in Norwich to experience their problems first-hand.

North Walsham Ladies' Circle members say giving the homeless a locker to keep their few belongings dry and safe, providing drying facilities, and ensuring those without hostel beds got priority at soup kitchens would ease hardship, and boost health and morale.

Circle members slept outside The Forum in Norwich overnight last Thursday to promote the work of The Benjamin Foundation and its need for funding to continue helping young people and the homeless.

During the night the women gave out hot drinks and sandwiches, and heard from two homeless men about their difficulties.


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The pair said they were repeatedly woken and asked their names by police community support officers (PCSOs) in case warrants were out for their arrest.

One believed that because he caused no trouble, he was seen as a lesser risk and would therefore find it difficult to qualify for social housing.

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The men spoke of the problem of carrying sleeping bags around with them all day. Hiding them led to the risk of theft, or sometimes they were binned as rubbish by workmen. It was also very difficult to dry bedding and clothes when they became wet and, without storage, there was nowhere to keep a dry set.

Two passing PCSOs told the women homeless people often committed minor offences in the hope of spending the night in a dry police cell, where they would be fed.

The women say a lack of funding, hostel places and social housing are major concerns and providing services in rural areas is even more difficult because the homeless are more widely scattered.

They are passing on their findings to the Benjamin Foundation, including details of a number of young people who got chatting with them and said they would be interested in helping homeless charities.

The circle also plans to lobby MPs and others in positions of power in a bid to improve services.

Jenny Harmer, circle chair, said the sleepover had been an eye opener. “It is a travesty that in this modern-day society we are creating an underclass of non-persons because we are not willing to face up to problems that do exist and are increasing,” she said.

“These people have no priority with political parties, as homeless people do not have a vote because they have no address.

“It is very easy to have a stereotypical view of all homeless people, until you actually talk to them.”

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