Volunteers spend night in King’s Lynn to raise awareness of homeless

Borough Mayor and Mayoress Barry and Christine Ayres visiting the group of people sleeping rough in King's Lynn for the night, to hightlight the homeless issue in the town. ANL-141023-073427009
Borough Mayor and Mayoress Barry and Christine Ayres visiting the group of people sleeping rough in King's Lynn for the night, to hightlight the homeless issue in the town. ANL-141023-073427009
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Scores of people spent a cold night in Lynn town centre this week to highlight the plight of teenagers sleeping rough in West Norfolk.

Staff at the Discovery Centre in North Lynn have been helping youngsters who have had no choice but to sleep out in the Lynn area.

Julie Chaplin, the centre’s NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training) project manager, says the problem is cropping up four to five times a week as there are not enough emergency beds in the area.

Centre staff were joined by colleagues from Genesis Housing Association and other groups in sleeping in the bandstand in the Vancouver Quarter on Wednesday night.

Miss Chaplin said: “This is an issue which is coming up four to five times a week.

“A young person may be homeless because of family break-down, or they have left care or they might themselves be in a position where they haven’t got anywhere to go.

“I used to think that if you presented yourself to the council as homeless, they have beds but that is not always the case.

“We had one young person sleeping in the park and one week two months ago, we had 10 young people who were homeless.

“We are hoping to raise awareness. This is not an issue which is going to go away.

“If you are sofa surfing or haven’t got a stable home how can you hold down a job? If you don’t have a place where you feel safe, behaviour starts to deteriorate.”

The centre works with 16 to 25-year-olds and staff have also seen problems where youngsters have been deemed as “intentionally homeless” after getting into arrears with their rent.

Miss Chaplin said: “All the hostels would look at them as a bad risk and the council does not have to house them as they are deemed as intentionally homeless.

“If a young person has been in care or does not have a stable background, no-one has taught them budgeting skills.”

West Norfolk mayor Barry Ayres went along on Wednesday evening and spoke to some of the teenagers who have been in a similar situation.

Miss Chaplin said: “We wanted to camp out all night as we want to do something to show that there are people out there with no place to go.”

There are a limited number of beds in Lynn hostels.

The Benjamin Foundation has 12 beds while there are 22 at the YMCA.

Julie Bowyer from the Benjamin Foundation said: “My waiting list is on about 15 to 20 people at any one time. I think there is not enough of the right provision available.

“I think people often don’t know the help which is available to them and people are not aware of homelessness.”