“We’re not all druggies and alkies” says one of the 300 people receiving specialist support from St Martins. Rough sleeping is not a lifestyle choice. Ask any child what they would like to be when they grow up and it’s almost guaranteed that they won’t say “I’d like to sleep rough”. A person sleeping rough is 17 times more likely to be the victim of violence or abuse than someone who isn’t sleeping rough.
How many people are homeless?
Research by the charity Museum of Homelessness shows that the number of homeless people who died in 2022 was 1,313, an 85% increase on the numbers recorded by the study just three years earlier. People die on the streets.
Every year there is a national street count which tries to establish the number of people sleeping rough. Last year the street count recorded that 3,069 people were sleeping rough; this is a national increase of 26%.
Norwich bucked the trend with a 30% decrease (from 10 people in 2021 to 7 in 2022). This is still 7 people too many but the numbers are decreasing as opposed to increasing, which can only be a good thing. At St Martins we attribute this decrease to efficient and effective commissioning of services, partnership work and local support.
Not a lifestyle choice
The reasons people sleep rough are many and varied. No two stories are the same, just as no two support packages are the same. Loss of employment and relationship breakdown are the two most significant reasons that people end up on our streets, but there are so many other reasons which result in people having no other option but to sleep rough. Once on the streets people may turn to drugs and alcohol to block out the pain of sleeping rough and the humiliation of being that person in a shop doorway.
Sleeping rough is not an easy option. In addition to finding somewhere dry, safe and warm to sleep there is also the challenge of actually sleeping. The reality is that many people sleeping rough may only get a few hours of poor-quality sleep. As a result, their health deteriorates and their priorities may not include looking after themselves. The life expectancy for a man on the streets is 47, for a woman it’s 43. Living on the streets is tough and something that no one should have to experience.
What St Martins does
St Martins supports the homeless in Norwich. For over 50 years it has provided the specialist support that people need to commence their recovery journey and start to live the lives they want. It provides flexible support which starts by engaging with people on the streets, encouraging them into accommodation and working with them to identify their goals and aspirations.
At St Martins we have a wide variety of support options, including emergency accommodation, hostels, community homes, sheltered housing and residential care. We work with people in their own homes to stop them losing their tenancies and needing crisis support. We also have our own learning and development centre which supports people to learn or relearn the skills that they need to live independently.
Often people receive support from St Martins for several years before they are ready to live independently. We work alongside people as they move into independent living to ensure that they have the support that they need to ensure their tenancies are successful.
From humble beginnings, a lifesaving charity
By providing a wide range of accommodation and specialist care, St Martins can support 300 people every day with 200 amazing and dedicated team members.
Over the last 50 years St Martins has developed from a humble charity which started its life in a garage at the Cathedral to a professional organisation providing lifesaving services to the people of Norwich and Norfolk. Nurturing, progressive, open and tenacious are the organisational values which will help St Martins to deliver on the vision that ‘No one needs to sleep rough on the streets of Norwich’.
Volunteers from around Norwich and Norfolk will be helping with the annual December Street Collection, which makes a vital difference to funding the work of St Martins. On average, every hour a volunteer collects adds £60 to St Martins funds. You can sign up here to help.