Rough sleepers' plea to be 'kept inside' as council secures £635k funding
- Credit: Sarah Burgess
As we get ever closer to normality with the roll-out of a Covid-19 vaccine, homeless people in Norfolk are seeking reassurance that the government's "Everybody In" slogan will not become "Everybody Out".
For many living a precarious existence, the pandemic resembled "something of a luxury" as Norfolk County Council, along with local partners, housed more than 600 homeless people within 24 hours in March.
But the worry was always whether funding, and the motivation, behind 'Everybody In' would extend beyond the public health crisis.
According to Norfolk County Council, a £635k fund will now help people into long-term housing using "a structured, evidence-based approach through better data collection and analysis".
The council member for adult social care, Bill Borrett, said the timing of the funding represents "an opportunity to build on the work done during the pandemic".
But for homeless people themselves, the idea of being turfed out of their current accommodation once the pandemic is over is still a very real fear.
Maria Higham, 37, and her partner Nigel Mazs, 56, have been struggling with homelessness on-and-off for decades. While currently in Great Yarmouth, they have spent time rough sleeping in Norwich in the past.
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When the pandemic hit, Ms Higham was put into St George's Hostel and Mr Mazs the Sea Princess Hotel. But both were warned these tenancies were not forever.
Ms Higham said: "I know a lot of people think that we've got ourselves into this situation, but everyone deserves a roof over their head. Coronavirus has been something of a luxury for us, and we don't want to lose that help now. We're scared "Everybody In" will become "Everybody Out'.
"Before coronavirus we were told we weren't priority, but as soon as the pandemic came, and everyone was put in hostels, the council proved they could house us all if they wanted to.
"We don't want to go back to lying on cardboard in the cold. We want to be kept inside."
Rob, who did not want to give his last name, is also homeless, and currently staying St George's.
"It's still a case of 'will we or will we not get kicked out' every single day", he said.
"I think sleeping on the streets has toughened me up, but facing them in winter is a struggle."