Homeless charities and homeless people in Colchester are saying the Colchester Borough Council is not doing enough to tackle homelessness.
Chief Executive Officer at Beacon House, Vivienne Wiggings says: “The council is not doing enough, there should be more council houses and more social houses built.”
The government has given the council a lot of money to develop their outreach projects and to tackle the issue of homelessness in Colchester. But people involved with homelessness still feel this is not enough.
David Tomlinson who is living in his tent and regularly visits Beacon House says: ‘There’s an outreach worker here at Beacon house, so the help is there but communication is a problem. A lot of the time you don’t know the help is there.’
Colchester MP, Will Quince himself expressed his fear that there is a big trust issue between the council and the homeless community and it’s really hard to break that barrier.
Marina Woodrow, manager at Colchester Emergency Night Shelter says: ‘Not a lot of people are aware what the council could do for them, because usually in the past, they have been there and have been turned down, so they won’t go back again.’
A young rough sleeper, Bradley sang from the same hymn. He said he’s personally been to Colchester Library and Community Hub but he was told to wait because he doesn’t have a local connection. He said: ‘The council can’t do anything just yet, it’s just useless. You have to go private rent.’
Managers at different homeless charities in Colchester expressed their concern that there isn’t enough housing for people.
Community Progression worker at Emmaus, Florence Baines said: “They [the council] have risen their game with outreach workers and people attending joint referral panels to be aware of what’s going on, and that’s brilliant.
“But from a housing point of view, there’s not enough done. There’s not enough affordable housing that people can tap into. If you’re not on the priority list, like a lot of middle-aged single men are, you’re falling down by the weight-side a little bit.
“They don’t get picked up. You’d be in a really low priority band, and it would be very unlikely that you’ll ever get a property.”
Vivienne Wiggings does not agree with some of the council’s policy, she says: “The challenge for the local authorities is that they think that by Beacon House being here, we’re drawing people from Braintree, Clacton and all the places around us that don’t have a day-centre to help homeless people.
“In some respects that’s true, but the council wants us to help those people, but they don’t want us to help anyone from the outside. It’s ridiculous for me that they are defining people by their housing status.
“We work with what we’ve got, but we can’t magic houses out of thin air. For some people, a house isn’t what’s needed. We’ve seen them be housed, and they can’t cope with paying their rent, with their friends coming around, or with their neighbours they put them with.
“So getting the right accommodation is more important than just getting any accommodation.”
It is very important where people are housed, as homeless people often have different addictions or mental health problems. As David Tomlinson said, he wouldn’t like to live with chaotic people, he’d rather live alone in his little tent than with people with different mental health problems.
Mr Tomlinson said: “There isn’t enough support for mental health. There could be more help on the mental health side, speaking to other people, like myself.
“The worst thing is that we hear society say ‘If you have a problem get help, get help, get help.’ But sometimes help isn’t really there“.
Vivienne Wiggings thinks there are not enough GPs and only a few support services, so people can’t get a mental health appointment.
“I think it’s far easier for someone to get crack cocaine in this town, than it is to get a mental health appointment”
Both homeless people and experts say the two most important things the council should do is build more houses and expand their mental health facilities.
However, Will Quince MP believes their new ‘housing first’ scheme is going to improve the situation in Colchester.