Contributed by St Elizabeth Hospice
Beginning the fifth week in her new role Jools Ramsey, the new CEO of Ipswich Housing Action Group (IHAG), shares her vision for people who are homeless in her home town of Ipswich.
After six years of a daily commute to London, where Jools was Deputy Director of Service Excellence of the Solace Women’s Aid charity, she is relishing the hours she has regained and has taken some of this time to draw some early observations about her new position.
“I am extremely fortunate to have been gifted an excellent charity with a very clear vision of what it does, and a talented team who are dedicated to delivering high quality responsive services. IHAG has been supporting local people who are homeless, or those in danger of becoming homeless for over 40 years, building a wealth of knowledge and experience in this sector. My aim is to build on these strong foundations to ensure we are fully prepared for what I believe will be a challenging future.”
“Ipswich is a great example of how organisations can work collaboratively together to combat homelessness, and great strides have been made recently to reduce rough sleeping on our streets. However that is just one element of homelessness. While at the recent annual rough sleeper count only seven people were identified, we know there are well over a thousand people locally with no safe space to call their own. The number of ‘hidden homeless’ really is the larger issue and we need to bring this into the open. I also believe we potentially face a ‘perfect storm’ where cuts in preventative support services, low salaries, spiralling rents and a lack of affordable housing will contribute to increasing numbers of people being at risk of homelessness in the future. In this day and age, in a wealthy country, no-one should be facing such a future. The reality is anyone with even an unexpected change of personal circumstance, illness or accident can become homeless”
“Homelessness is a complex issue with no single answer. For some of the people we support it is about building trust and one to one contact. We need to be there at the time they are ready to engage. Nobody wants to be homeless but the habit of consistently making good decisions can be a hard one to develop. For other people it is just about being there to offer the help when they need it. We recently had feedback from a lady who is now 46, the mother of two and running her own business, who told us that when she was 19 we helped house her and gave her the foundation on which she subsequently built her life. Every year we support over 3,000 local people with supported housing, money advice and provide daily emotional & practical support & advice for adults at our drop in hub, the Chapman Centre, on Blackhorse Lane. We know we make a significant difference for a lot of local people and know we will need to do so in the years to come”
When it comes to the future Jools told us “I am still very new and it will take time with my team to really develop a long term development plan, but I am very keen that what we do is driven by the needs of those we support. We don’t do things to people, we do things with people and we need to make sure they are the right things at the right time. I know we will need to expand our current services, to help more people who find themselves struggling with debt or the prospect of losing their home. It would be great to have more supported housing provision to accommodate those who have difficulty securing a tenancy elsewhere.
“There is a need to expand our service hours at The Chapman Centre to ensure that our services dovetail with the operating hours of other local support services. It would also be good to be able to offer our services beyond our current geography but all these things cost money, and to do them will require increased funding. While we can, and will, make compelling arguments to the local authorities to provide funding for increased services, we also know we will need to make equally compelling arguments to local people and businesses for support. My ask is a simple one.
“To support local people who are homeless, please support a local charity. Great or small, regularly or as a one-off, your money will make a positive difference. Anyone can become homeless. Please support IHAG to support them.”
To find out more about Ipswich Housing Action Group and how you can support their work please visit www.ihag.co.uk
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