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‘Punishing cuts’ for homeless services

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With new research highlighting funding cuts to homeless services, a chief executive in Lynn has said there is not enough to “serve complex needs”.

Paula Hall, chief executive of the Purfleet Trust, said funding is often for a short-term period of 12 months rather than long-term needs.

Her words come after new research by national charities revealed that East of England services for single homeless people have seen a 36 per cent funding cut over the past nine years.

St Mungo’s and Homeless Link have warned that “punishing cuts” are leaving increasing numbers of people at risk on the streets.

Mrs Hall said the Purfleet Trust, based at Austin Fields in Lynn, has a good working relationship with the borough council and are on track to end rough sleeping by 2027.

The Purfleet Trust at Austin Fields King's Lynn
The Purfleet Trust at Austin Fields King's Lynn

However, she agreed with the national charities that austerity is a problem.

“The impact is felt because there are cuts to mental health services, domestic violence services and it all contributes to the risk of being homeless,” she said.

“We need a greater dispersal of financial support for us to deliver what we need to deliver.”

The charity has a rough sleep coordinator and outreach team in place to work closely with those sleeping on the streets.

This is something Mrs Hall has called a “really positive move”.

She also cited a successful education programme at the charity which has reportedly seen 56 per cent of clients move into employment full-time.

Aside from funding issues however, deep-rooted problems such as alcohol or drug abuse are huge challenges to combat.

Mrs Hall said: “We work with people who have fallen between services so they could be homeless but they could also have a drug or alcohol issue, or be an offender for example.

“It’s really difficult to find accommodation for people who are entrenched.

“Along with the rough sleeper coordinator, we do try to engage with services to minimise their addictions. I think that is our biggest challenge as there are not enough services to support the complex needs.

“A person has to want to give up their alcohol or drug addiction. We can’t force that.”

The government introduced a Rough Sleeping Initiative Fund of £30 million in 2018/19, which has increased to £46 million for 2019/20.

Alan Martin, 54, a homeless man in Lynn who had been with the Purfleet Trust said homelessness is an “epidemic” in the town.

Alan Martin, pictured left, with his friend Daniel Clark
Alan Martin, pictured left, with his friend Daniel Clark

He said: “People give a homeless person money and feel good about it, but something needs to be urgently done. It’s crazy at the moment.”

“A lot of homeless people have mental health problems. I think it’s probably about 90 per cent,” he said.

Mrs Hall added: “Alan has been around a long time and is very intelligent. He is absolutely right that the majority of homeless do have mental health issues.

“If I was living on the street I think I would be so that is to be expected.”

Every client has complex needs which have to be taken into account at the charity.

Mrs Hall continued: “One guy came to us and had to sleep with the doors open for a couple of months because he just felt so claustrophobic.”

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