Charity seeking to help plight of Swaffham’s ‘sofa surfers’

Iceni Partnership team at  Swaffham Community Centre, new homelessness support scheme proposal.
LtoR, Sammy Harrington (Intern), Jonathan Reed (Customer Liason), Don Saunders (Manager), Dennis Tallon (Chairman)
Iceni Partnership team at Swaffham Community Centre, new homelessness support scheme proposal. LtoR, Sammy Harrington (Intern), Jonathan Reed (Customer Liason), Don Saunders (Manager), Dennis Tallon (Chairman)

A Swaffham community group has set out its vision for providing greater support for the town’s homeless people.

Managers of the town’s Iceni Partnership say they want to emulate similar schemes elsewhere in the county to help people who might otherwise be sleeping rough.

The group is aiming to enlist the support of political leaders and other charities for the project.

And town councillors are set to look at the idea tomorrow night.

Partnership manager Don Saunders said the organisation wanted to do more after seeing a growing number of people in need of help.

He said: “Lots of people will think they don’t see homeless people sleeping in the streets or in doorways so there’s not a problem. But there is.”

He stressed they were not seeing cases on a weekly basis, he said those they did see were often young people.

But he cited the case of one young man who was sleeping on friends’ sofas and who they helped with benefit claims.

He said: “Because we weren’t able to offer him something more permanent for accommodation, he drifted away and he’s not in a very good position.

“People would say you need to go and get yourself a job but he was in a position where he couldn’t wash his clothes, have a shower or present himself properly. People aren’t going to employ you if you turn up like that.

“This is 2017. It shouldn’t be like this.”

Mr Saunders said he wanted to emulate a Fakenham programme where charities and local councils work together to provide short-term accommodation for young people.

The Benjamin Foundation runs a supported accommodation unit for young adults at the town’s Steven Newing House, as well as the Right Tracks site in Lynn.

Although the partnership has yet to hold talks with Breckland Council on the subject, it has approached the town council, who are due to consider the issue at their meeting on Wednesday.

Mr Saunders said the group was also exploring other possible funding streams including through the Norwich and Peterborough Building Society, whose parent company the Yorkshire Building Society set up a charitable partnership with End Youth Homelessness last month.

The scheme aims to raise £750,000 to help around 700 young adults into their own rented homes.

Anyone interested in supporting the partnership should phone 01760 722800.