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‘This has been a very successful service:’ Homelessness initiative hailed

PUBLISHED: 14:21 06 March 2019 | UPDATED: 14:39 06 March 2019

The Thin Ice Project provided emergency accommodation and specialist support for those that find themselves homeless or vulnerable over the winter months in Lowestoft and surrounding areas. Picture: Access Community Trust

The Thin Ice Project provided emergency accommodation and specialist support for those that find themselves homeless or vulnerable over the winter months in Lowestoft and surrounding areas. Picture: Access Community Trust

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Organisers of a winter weather homeless provision have hailed the success of a much-needed project.

The Waveney-wide Thin Ice project has proved to be very successful after 80 people were assisted throughout the four-month scheme.

And this week organisers confirmed they will activate the emergency scheme once more if and when any bad weather arises.

With emergency accommodation and specialist support for the homeless and vulnerable extended over the winter months in Lowestoft and the surrounding areas, the project was launched as part of a community response to concerns that more needed to be done during the Beast from the East winter crisis.

Running between November 1 and February 28, emergency bed spaces and support was provided to those in need.

More than 600 emergency bed spaces were provided as Access Community Trust, Lowestoft Rising, Waveney District Council’s housing team and Lowestoft Foodbank joined forces throughout the project to provide a night shelter facility every night.

With an out-of-hours support service number to call, seven days a week between 6pm and 9pm each night, as well as four beds at the Fyffe Centre to house those that find themselves homeless or vulnerable during the winter months, Emma Ratzer, chief executive of Access Community Trust, said: “From November 1 to February 28 we have seen 80 individual people come through the door to access emergency accommodation.

Access Community Trust chief executive Emma Ratzer. Picture: Julian ClaxtonAccess Community Trust chief executive Emma Ratzer. Picture: Julian Claxton

“Everybody was given a hot meal, access to a shower and given spare clothes from donated items.

“Over Christmas those accessing the service were given small gifts and given a Christmas lunch and a buffet dinner.

“Each night we have offered eight bed spaces per night to those in need. The most on any one night was 11 people.”

Mrs Ratzer said that out of the 80 people who accessed the service, 21 now have permanent rooms/beds with Access Community Trust; 11 people stayed for seven days; 15 people stayed for more than seven days (but no more than 21 days) and 33 people accessed the service for one or two nights only.

“This has been a very successful service and although the official end date has now been reached, if we do experience any bad weather again we will activate our emergency accommodation.”

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At the end of the four-month project, there are still a few individuals in Lowestoft who have been unable, or have chosen not to, access the accommodation service.

Mrs Ratzer said: “However, the street outreach team remains engaged with them and ensures they are still very much part of ‘the system’ when it comes to finding solutions – for example, they all have active benefit claims.

“For those that are unable to access accommodation we are working hard to find suitable alternatives, a good example of why someone can’t access this sort of emergency provision is if someone has a conviction for arson, or they have attacked staff members.”

Access Community Trust Tweeted: “Over the past four months, we ran the #ThinIce project which gave emergency accommodation and support to those who found themselves #homeless.

“All in all, we provided 607 beds along with food, clothing, washing facilities and other support to those in need #SocialImpact

“We are immensely proud of our brilliant staff and volunteers and couldn’t have done it without the fantastic support of @EastSuffolk @LowestoftRising and @LowestoftFB.

“A massive thank you to all staff and partners who were involved in this much needed project #ThankYou #CSR #impact”

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