BBC News: Increasing numbers of rough sleepers in city

Caroline Kingdon of the BBC reports:

A charity in Norwich that helps the homeless says they’ve seen an increase in the number of rough sleepers in the city over the last few years.

The St Martins Housing Trust, which runs the 30-bed Bishopbridge House hostel, says this year they’ve seen about 200 people come through their doors, compared to 120 four years ago.

The charity also said the number of people they are seeing with mental health issues is also increasing.

Derek Player, who runs the charity, says an increasing demand for their services means they’re looking to build another three bedrooms this winter.

I don’t feel we’ve ever really got to grips with this issue of mental health and homelessness – I’m not sure we have the frameworks and services in place for everyone who experiences mental ill health when they’re homeless and that’s a very high proportion of homeless people.

That’s an increase of 66.6%.

At last, somebody from the charitable sector speaks out. Well done, Derek Player of St Martins Housing Trust.

Norwich used to have a mental health homeless team. Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) closed it as part of its ‘radical redesign’. Wouldn’t the £35,000 per annum salary increase and the ‘relocation allowance’ trousered by NSFT Chief Executive Michael Scott have been better spent on the homeless rather than someone who lives in a mansion?

Norwich used to have community mental health teams based in Norwich with facilities to see people. NSFT cut and ‘merged’ the city’s community mental health teams and moved half of the remaining staff to Gateway House on a Wymondham business park without facilities to see patients.

Norwich used to have an excellent crisis service which NSFT cut to shreds.

NSFT used to have an excellent assertive outreach team which NSFT closed without a replacement or a plan.

Now, the lack of community mental health services and inpatient beds means that people with mental ill health are sleeping and dying on the streets.

Restoring the homeless team and assertive outreach, reversing the crisis team cuts and ensuring enough inpatient beds were key founding aims of campaign nearly three years ago. We still don’t have them.

Debbie White, Operations Director (Norfolk) at NSFT and a member of the Board which agreed the ‘radical redesign’ tries to rewrite history in her response to the BBC.

Debbie White also attempts to blame unemployment (which has fallen) and drugs (despite the fall in the proportion of drug-related unexpected deaths at NSFT).

Ms White says they “recognise the increased risk of vulnerability of people who’re homeless in mental health crisis… responding to referrals for these in the same way we would for people who are not homeless but who are in crisis… there is no specialist service commissioned to deal with this.”

There was a mental health service for homeless people. The NSFT Board which Debbie White sat on closed it as part of the ‘radical redesign’. The commissioners didn’t close it. The NSFT Board did.

You can read the full story on the BBC News wesbite here:

BBC News Increasing numbers of rough sleepers in city

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