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Foodbank volunteer calls for urgent action to address rising levels of homelessness in Sudbury

A former district councillor has warned that urgent action is needed to address a rise in rough sleepers in Sudbury.

At a meeting of Sudbury Town Council, Tom Burrows, who volunteers at the Storehouse Foodbank in Tudor Road, highlighted the extent of the problem.

“We’re seeing more and more people coming in who are homeless in Sudbury, and I’m concerned about this,” he said.

There's been a rise in homelessness in recent years (22034502)
There's been a rise in homelessness in recent years (22034502)

“They’re out there in tents, getting cold, getting wet, having their tents vandalised.”

Vandals have reportedly targeted tents belonging to homeless people, prompting the Salvation Army and other organisations in the town to replace them to ensure they have some basic protection at night.

Mr Burrows, a former district councillor for Great Cornard, highlighted some of the challenging predicaments homeless individuals found themselves in when trying to secure a job without a permanent address to give to employers.

He said a homeless man claimed to have been deemed at the “bottom of the pile” on the housing register because he did not suffer from a drug addiction or mental health condition.

Highlighting the likeliness of the situation becoming worse, Mr Burrows called for the matter to be taken seriously.

“We’re talking about increasing tourism in our town, yet we have people sleeping rough,” he said. “I don’t know what the town council can do about it, but I think we should be working with the district council to sort this problem out, because it’s going to grow.”

Recognising the extent of homelessness as a nationwide problem, Jan Osborne, Babergh District Council’s cabinet member for housing, said the situation had become a real concern in the town.

She said the district council had been geared up to provide vital help to any individuals who find themselves sleeping rough.

“The housing team at Babergh do a fantastic job and they are working to become more and more diverse,” she said.

“Their skill base has to be able to cope with a lot more things now, like mental health, alcohol and drug abuse, so they have to be able to work with all the agencies.”

Cllr Osborne gave assurances that rough sleepers were provided with bed and breakfast accommodation before more permanent arrangements could be made.

An officer responsible for providing support for rough sleepers in Sudbury and Bury St Edmunds visits the town two days a week to help those in need.

Sudbury north councillor Nigel Bennett highlighted the importance of establishing the causes behind the problem, before the matter could successfully be resolved.

“It was not that long ago that we were told there was only one rough sleeper in Sudbury,” he said. “And that would suggest that something has changed dramatically and in a relatively short period of time, so my question is what has changed that has led to this increase? There’s a variety of reasons and causes of homelessness.”

Liberal Democrat councillor Oliver Forder questioned whether a more efficient scheme could be created.

“We have the district council trying to intervene and we have the church trying to intervene,” he said. “But is there a task force or a number of charities that can be involved so that we can have a holistic and more powerful approach to this incredible distressing problem?”

In response, Cllr Osborne stated a strong partnership had been established between voluntary organisations and the housing team, with a severe weather protocol having been put in place to ensure rough sleepers have a safe place to stay.

Councillors agreed that it was vital that the issue of homelessness should be discussed at a future meeting.