Purfleet Trust Talk at 2015 AGM

Notes from the talk entitled ‘Purfleet Trust – helping to meet the needs of the homeless in our community’. The talk was given by Paula Hall, CEO of the Purfleet Trust, on Wednesday 11th November 2015 to an audience of 28 people from Churches Together in King’s Lynn.

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 Purfleet charity, who deal with about 80 homeless people every day, helps this homeless group back to becoming 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. Many homeless people have never learnt social skills from their parents and are set up to fail in society. The only answer to homelessness is employment. In order to get back to a life free of homelessness the person has got to want to engage in meaningful activities with the society around them. Purfleet encourage and support individuals to make the changes they need to engage with appropriate services.

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. The council may help with the starting rent. In January 2013 Freebridge joined with the Purfleet to allow the use of a house for temporary shelter for 5 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. To get your functioning life back in society you have to change your way of thinking and consider others, using softer skills to make relationships.

The 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 a different 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. Paula is hoping that, next year, 2 further 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 6 full-time and 8 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. Better to give money to a homeless charity. If 200 people gave £5 per month the Purfleet Trust could employ a training co-ordinator. Without the support of local people Purfleet would suffer a funding gap. Churches in King’s Lynn can help by promoting the charity to their congregations, and some churchgoers may like to volunteer or give food, household items, toiletries, socks, donations or time as a befriender. The out of hours number for the council to find an emergency hostel place is 01553 616200. If anyone wants to speak directly to Paula she can be contacted on 01553 767829