Dr Jan Sheldon

CEO St Martin's Housing Trust, Norwich,

Norwich does it again

Reading this title, you could be forgiven for thinking you’re about to read a piece about football; you’re not! My understanding of the game can at best be described as rudimentary and any attempt to write about football would risk significant reputational damage to St Martins.

No, this piece is about the number of people sleeping rough in Norwich and how for the third year in a row, against all odds, the number of people sleeping rough in the annual street count on the streets of Norwich has decreased. In fact using the annual street count data if we look back to 2016 the number of people on the streets of Norwich has decreased by 85% from 34 to 5. Given all the economic challenges that we currently face this achievement can only be described as remarkable, St Martins is within touching distance of our vision of ensuring that no one sleeps rough on our streets.

So, how is this possible when nationally we’ve seen a 27% increase of people sleeping rough and the figures in the East of England have risen by 18%? When the cost of living is high and more and more people are losing their accommodation across the UK?

Like most important questions there is more than one answer, contributory factors and critical success indicators coming together to make up more than the sum of their parts.

Can we end rough sleeping?

This is something that every government aspires to do; the number of people sleeping rough is a political hot potato. My response is that to end rough sleeping we need three things 1) sufficient funding, 2) political will and 3) enough social housing. Like a three-legged stool these three components need to be offered in equal measure to deliver a solid base and a lasting result.

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