A Luton charity which has seen demand on its services nearly treble is calling for all organisations with a responsibility for homeless people to work more closely together.
NOAH (New Opportunities And Horizons) Enterprise, which has a welfare centre, stores, a boutique and academy in the town, organised a Let’s Get Together Conference that brought together academics, the church and government in a wide-ranging discussion of deprivation in Bedfordshire.
NOAH’s chief executive, Jim O’Connor, said: “We are of the opinion in NOAH that present approaches do not provide the solutions that are required and I believe that view is held by NHS and the three Bedfordshire Councils among others.
“Given the economies they have to find it is, I feel, incumbent on all of us who have a responsibility to homeless people to work more effectively together.”
“NOAH’s Let’s Get Together Conference had that objective and with the powerful input of excellent addresses and the readiness of everyone to participate in constructive discussion, that aim was achieved. What’s now important is taking that forward into action which everyone who attended seems committed to do.”
Demand for services from Bedfordshire homelessness charity NOAH Enterprise has increased almost threefold since the year 2000. Then the number of people accessing its welfare services was some 500. Today it is 1,200. Influences on the figures are, according to NOAH, legislation – benefits sanctions, housing benefit changes for under 35’s, and some consequences of EU immigration.
The conference, held on Thursday, October 9 at the University of Bedfordshire’s Putteridgebury Campus, heard from high profile speakers including Helen Nellis, HM Lord-Lieutenant for Bedfordshire, Bill Rammell Vice Chancellor University of Bedfordshire, Julian Corner chief executive LankellyChase Foundation, Government’s Tim Gray and Rt Revd Richard Atkinson Bishop of Bedford.
According to Indices of Multiple Deprivation published by Department for Communities and Local Government, Bedfordshire is home to some of the most deprived areas in the UK.
Although official statistics state that an average of 22 people sleep rough in Luton at any one time, with 26 in Bedford and 13 in Central Bedfordshire, NOAH has engaged with 384 rough sleepers in 18 months.
It is estimated that homelessness costs more than £20,000 per person per year, with demand on hospital Accident and Emergency Services from homeless people being eight times greater than that of the general population.
For more information on NOAH www.noahenterprise.org/