Ipswich Housing Action Group (IHAG)
The key to an independent future for homeless, marginalised adults by providing accommodation, support and money advice.
For over 40 years Ipswich Housing Action Group has been helping the homeless in Ipswich.
Walk around Ipswich as the sun rises and the homeless are all too visible in shop doorways, in church cemeteries and on the waterfront.
However they got to where they are, sleeping rough exposes these people not just to the elements, cold, rain, snow but also a host of other problems too.
They may have physical and mental health issues, learning problems, addictions; they may have been forced onto the streets because of debts or problem behaviour.
Suffolk Community Foundation meets some of the homeless people in Ipswich who have been helped by IHAG.
The evidence also shows that the longer people sleep rough the more difficult it becomes to help them, which is why the ‘No Second Night Out’ campaign was launched across the UK in recent years.
In Ipswich, says, Halford Hewitt, Chief Executive of IHAG, it is supported through his charity with an outreach project funded by Suffolk Community Foundation grants through the Suffolk Police & Crime Commissioner’s Fund. Halford says that no-one can make assumptions about homeless people – just one thing needs to go wrong like losing your job, divorce, illness, mental health issues or addiction – and you could find yourself without a roof over your head.
Take Robin, an ex-serviceman, who spent six years sleeping out in tents between spells in prison.
“As a former soldier it’s what I have been trained for. I’d put up my tent on the edge of town near a 24-hour service stop to get a wash and I was fine. Thanks to IHAG, it’s outreach team and intervention at its Chapman Centre, in Black Horse Lane, he now has his own apartment. He has been diagnosed with post- traumatic stress disorder, a result of service in Northern Ireland, which has led to support from the armed services charity, SSAFA, and a home. I am ecstatic because I am being given another chance.”
Mary, a 44-year-old professional became homeless through ill health. “I had a career, my own house and a car but then I became ill with a rare condition which left me paralysed down my left side.
She lost everything paying for essential care as she recovered and a year ago, with nothing left, asked IHAG for help. “I was terribly depressed because of what had happened to me but all the housing team were really supportive. They helped with accommodation and benefits and thanks to their support she is now moving into her own home with a full time job too”.
They helped with accommodation and benefits and thanks to their support she is now moving into her own home with a full time job too.
Paul and Anne from Suffolk Community Foundation
A makeshift bed in Ipswich Town centre
Paul’s hands on an early morning walk with IHAG’s Outreach Team
Ipswich Housing Action Group worker
At the other end of the spectrum is Paul, 50 and on an early morning walk with IHAG’s Outreach Team is found in St. Clement’s Churchyard tucked up on ancient gravestones in donated sleeping bags. All that protects him from the rising damp are £1 plastic sheets.
He has been sleeping out on the streets after losing his place at another hostel. “There was an altercation,” he explains. Paul’s life has had ups and downs, he’s spent time on the streets before, for 18 months he ‘sofa surfed’, and spent time in prison too. “When you are on the streets, the help you get from IHAG and the Chapman Centre makes a huge amount of difference. You can get something to eat, read the newspapers and have a shower. They also help you sort out your problems, especially if you have to fill in forms and find it difficult. It’s hard living like this though especially in the winter.”
Halford, who has been at IHAG for 25 years, says there are about 25 ‘hardened’ rough sleepers in Ipswich with 1,080 more who are ‘sofa surfing’.
“We have an outreach worker who goes out in the mornings and tries to persuade the rough sleepers to come into the Chapman Centre. We offer food, washing facilities, a postal address, advice about benefits, healthcare but make appointments to help individuals access other specialist services too.”
IHAG, explained Halford, has also been instrumental in helping to set up Ipswich Locality Homelessness Partnership, a group of 40 organisations, which work together to help vulnerable and marginalised people. This means IHAG can signpost people to services that can sort out the complexity of their problems and find long-term solutions.
“The earlier an intervention is made the sooner a solution can be found”.
I'm very proud to work in partnership with Suffolk Community Foundation, and to work with them to reach voluntary section organisations that do such an amazing job to make our county a safe place to live.
IHAG does an amazing job to help those, who for whatever reason, find themselves homeless and have no other alternative but to sleep rough.
Some of the individuals involved have very complex needs and many have ended up in a downward spiral through illness, relationship breakdown or a job loss through no fault of their own. The outreach work is vital so they can access the help they need to make that change.