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Page last updated at 16:00 GMT, Wednesday, 30 September 2009 17:00 UK
Accommodating Norfolk's homeless
Homeless man
Homelessness is becoming an issue for young people in Norfolk

According to government statistics, Norwich has almost as many rough sleepers on its streets as Manchester and Liverpool.

The official Rough Sleepers England count for 2009 found that Norwich had eight rough sleepers on a single night.

"We are seeing a greater demand for our services than we can house," said Tim Sweeting, YMCA Norfolk chief executive.

The need for more lodgings in Norfolk has been eased with the opening of the Aspire centre in Great Yarmouth.

Officially, Norwich has only one less rough sleeper each night than Manchester and Liverpool, who have nine recorded homeless people.

The figures for Norwich show an eight-fold rise, up from zero figures in 2007 and 2008.

It's stark reading considering Birmingham has an official count of four rough sleepers and Cambridge having just one.

Westminster topped the Rough Sleepers England count with 110 homeless.

Despite the concerns at the level of demand for lodgings in Norwich, Tim Sweeting believes the counts are very difficult to record accurately.

"They are a snapshot and depend on finding people who do not want to be found for safety reasons," he said.

"The Norwich figures do not necessarily mean that there is an eight-fold increase in homelessness locally," he added.

The statistics only include people sleeping rough on the streets or other outside locations. They do not include those in hostels, 'sofa surfers' or other provisions for the homeless.

Young people at the Aspire Centre, Great Yarmouth
The Aspire centre is providing new hope in Great Yarmouth

"The government are very clear about the definition of somebody that is rough sleeping," said Anna Hassan from Bishops Bridge Hostel in Norfolk.

"They have to be laid down, covered over and asleep or going to sleep, otherwise we can't count them," she added.

The rise in homelessness appears to be linked to the recession, which shows to have hit the youth of Norfolk hard.

Tim Sweeting says that the number of applicants for housing at the new Central Norwich YMCA has been overwhelming.

"We are concerned by the large number of 16 - 24-year-olds who apply for our services and we are working with other agencies to increase our supply of accommodation in Norwich," said Tim.

"Our response has been to seek to develop a 40-bed accommodation unit on Bethel Street to meet the increased demand we are experiencing."

"And we are encouraging the local community to support us financially to help make this project a reality," he added.

Centres opening

Stacie at the Aspire Centre, Great Yarmouth

Easing the worries, primarily for young people in Norfolk, is the news of more housing centres opening in other towns around the county.

The Benjamin Foundation officially unveiled its latest project, Aspire, in a Grade II listed building on Howard Street North, Great Yarmouth, on Tuesday, 15 September, 2009.

The centre looks to offer support, advice and accommodation for 16 to 25-year-olds in the seaside town.

"There are three levels and an attic. There's a basement as well where there will be a training area, so there's a lot of education and employment training support going on," said Stephen Earl, conservation and heritage manager from Great Yarmouth Borough Council.

"There's also a music centre, music room and rooms for art, so there are a lot of things that are going to happen in this centre - it's not just the 17 flats," he added.

The new residents of the centre, of whom many had already moved in before the opening ceremony, feel it is a much needed resource.

"It's brilliant; it's worked wonders since I've been here… I've just come so far," said Stacie.

"It's great. It's better than a lot of places I've been in my life," said David.

Plans for new Norwich YMCA flats
01 Sep 09 |  Religion & Ethics



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