Policeman buys homeless man a hot meal in Wisbech as figures nationally show the homeless problem has doubled in the last six years

Ferry Project, Norfolk Street Wisbech. One of the night shelter bedrooms.

Ferry Project, Norfolk Street Wisbech. One of the night shelter bedrooms. - Credit: Archant

A police officer bought a homeless man hot food after he was found begging in Wisbech unable to get a bed in the town’s hostel.

Ferry Project, Norfolk Street Wisbech.

Ferry Project, Norfolk Street Wisbech. - Credit: Archant

The incident has brought into sharp focus how Wisbech, like every town across the country, has experienced a sharp rise in the number of people sleeping rough with not enough facilities to help.

Homeless charity Crisis says homelessness has doubled nationally in the last six years.

Councillor Virginia Bucknor said: “Fenland District Council go the extra mile to help people and Ferry Project do an outstanding job but there are limited resources and a growing problem.”

“The Ferry Project only has 12 beds and these are often booked up, it would seem almost permanently, while they try and deal with an individual’s complex needs - not just alcoholism or drug issues but mental health issues as well.”

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According to the police officer on the night, the young man had an alcohol problem, but was not causing any nuisance.

Cllr Bucknor said: “These are kind and decent gestures, in this case by a police officer, but it highlights the problem and the frustration felt at what can we do to help people.

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Crisis said that 3,569 people sleep rough on any night across England - more than double the number counted in 2010.

A spokesman said: “The problem of homelessness is much bigger than rough sleeping” and added many people went undetected through sofa surfing on friend’s homes, living in bed and breakfasts or in over crowded accommodation.

Established in 1998, Luminus Ferry Project is a social enterprise and registered charity with an emergency night shelter in Octavia View, Wisbech which helps around 80 per cent of people who find themselves homeless in Fenland.

In a statement on its website Keith Smith, founder and director of Ferry Project, said: “Clients include people with financial problems, people fleeing domestic violence, people recovering from a family breakdown or from drug and alcohol abuse, young people leaving the care system, those who have been sexually abused, ex-offenders and those with simply nowhere else to go.”

A spokesman for Fenland District Council said: “We provide help in other ways from the Housing Options team through our contact centre 01354 654321 or our one-stop shops during working hours.

“There is also an emergency out of hours number, manned 24/7.

“When the temperature forecast is for 1 degree or below, the Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP), comes into operation.

“We contact the Ferry Project and they’ll find space for anyone who turns up for that night and give them a hot drink, shower, bedding.

“We also email the police and statutory agencies in Fenland to let them know when SWEP is applicable.

“We have a part-time outreach worker who works with homeless people to help them find work/training and in some cases help them reconnect to their local area or can involve migrants repatriation.

“If people know of someone sleeping rough please call and give the exact location and when they saw them, on 01354 654321.”

In Wisbech there is also homeless provision at the Foyer in North Street within the town’s waterfront development.

It provides longer term accommodation for up to 17 young people aged between 16 and 25.

Specialist staff are on-hand to help residents develop independent living skills, support them with training needs and help them to access education and employment.

There are also two move-on flats for residents ready to make the next step towards independence.

A spokesman for Cambridgeshire Police said: “We do not have any legal obligation to find someone a bed to sleep in, however we do work closely with our partners in the local authorities and refer any individuals to them should we have any concerns.”

There are currently five vacancies with the Ferry Project. They are multi skilled night worker £15,000, two bank administrator posts paid hourly and two bank support worker posts paid at an hourly rate.

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