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Helping King’s Lynn’s homeless people

Paula Hall, CEO of The Purfleet Trust recently spoke to Churches Together in King’s Lynn on how they can help to meet the needs of the homeless in their community.

Because local councils do not have a statutory duty to find accommodation for single homeless people aged 18-65 years the Purfleet Trust deals mainly with this group of clients rather than with married couples and families. The charity, who deal with about 80 homeless people every day, helps this group of people become functioning members of society by offering them training in money management, neighbour relations, housing, welfare support and benefits, housekeeping skills, health and hygiene and employment skills. 

Homelessness is common with 1 in 4 of society members having a personal or close personal relation or friend suffering the experience in their lifetime. Examples of situations which lead to homelessness include loss of job; relationship breakdown or mental illness. Many people in the society are only one or two pay packets away from homelessness if they have no savings.  

The Purfleet staff will undertake a needs assessment of each client and put together a support package which includes referral to the housing team. Daily support may mean a hot meal and facilities to have a shower and change their clothes. Houses in this area are either provided by Freebridge Community Housing (a local housing association) or through private landlords.

Some homeless people come to the attention of the police who will bring such a person to the Purfleet Trust. The police may give the person the alternative of getting engaged with the Purfleet training or being charged with an offence. 

In January 2013 Freebridge joined with Purfleet to allow the use of a house for temporary shelter for five homeless people who can be intensively worked with to restore their independence. Clients are given a timetable of events, regular training meetings, and receive specialist support including training in how to compromise and how to negotiate. As one homeless person said, “when you are on the street you are vulnerable, you can’t trust anyone and you feel isolated. You have to be selfish to survive.” The training and support given by Purfleet helps these homeless people to functioning in society, to change their way of thinking and consider others and use softer skills to make relationships. 

Purfleet trust logoThe training house was seen to be a success so in December 2013 Freebridge provided a second house and in April 2015 provided another house specifically for women. Purfleet are using this house for the immediate care of homeless women as their needs are often different to males and an alternative approach to proving support is needed. Women tend to be the ‘hidden homeless’, (compared to the men), because they sleep on friend’s couches or in squats rather than in doorways or church porches. The number of homeless women locally who have come to the attention of the Purfleet Trust has increased as a percentage of the total from 11% in 2010 to 37% in 2015. This may have been because the police and council were closing down squats locally. 

It is hoped that in the next year a further two houses will be made available for the immediate care of homeless people in King’s Lynn.

Paula gave several examples of homeless people whose lives had been turned round by the charity and a lady spoke who had previously used the service but now helps as a paid worker. The charity has six full-time and eight part-time staff and there are currently 23 volunteers.

Paula asked the audience not to give money to the homeless because they may spend it on drugs or alcohol. She advised that it would be better to give the money to a homeless charity. As an example, if 200 people gave £5 per month the Purfleet Trust could employ a training co-ordinator, and all churches can help by promoting the charity to their congregations; some churchgoers could become a volunteer or give food, household items, toiletries, socks, donations or time as a befriender. 

To find out more about the Purfleet Trust check out their website at http://www.purfleettrust.org.uk

Picture used with permission from the author

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