The Living Room provides a unique and essential service for Rough Sleepers in Great Yarmouth. Indeed many people comment that they don’t know how Great Yarmouth managed without it before 2017. The Living Room is so important because it provides rough sleepers in the area a safe, warm place to stay over the winter months, providing them with not only physical rest, safety and recuperation, but also a relief from some of the emotional stress they have been experiencing, and the opportunity to work towards a fresh start.
Those who are rough sleeping are not only vulnerable to the weather and hunger, but are also vulnerable to abuse and violence. Dealing with these kind of issues of basic survival and personal safety affects not only the physical health of rough sleepers, but can also affect their mental and emotional health, and can sometimes tip them into patterns of negative behaviour which make their chances of independently re-integrating into housing and society much less likely. One homeless man in Great Yarmouth described how he had been kicked, spat at and urinated on during his first night on the streets, describing it as “worse than prison.”
We have identified that what many of these people need is emergency, short-term accommodation in order to keep them off the streets in a period of crisis, especially over the winter when conditions can be severe, and to help maintain liaison with local agencies who can support them into more permanent and stable housing options.
The approach of the The Living Room to meeting this need is to open up church buildings during the winter months. We aim to enable people sleeping rough to have shelter, warmth, and hospitality for some nights every week during the winter months and to improve outcomes for people sleeping rough who want to move on to permanent accommodation.
We use 3 different church buildings in the Great Yarmouth area, which are each open one night a week so that we can cover Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights between November and April. The Living Room is staffed by trained volunteers, under the leadership of a paid Project Co-ordinator. The Project Co-ordinator is also responsible for risk-assessing referrals and working with Living Room visitors during the week to support them one-to-one with making progress towards permanent accommodation where appropriate. We continue to employ our Project Co-ordinator beyond the end of The Living Room winter season in order to maintain and build on the relationships and support for the visitors which began over the winter and to run our weekly summer drop-in meal.
At The Living Room visitors are welcomed into a warm, comfortable environment where they are respected and treated with kindness and dignity. They receive a hot meal at night and breakfast in the morning, with hot drinks and snacks available throughout the night. Volunteers and visitors eat together. There are also opportunities for social interaction between visitors and with volunteers through games and organized activities.
The Living Room beliefs strongly in the importance of partnering with other agencies. Part of the role of the Project Co-ordinator is to work with other local organisations to support our visitors to get the support and advice they need to move on in their lives.
Over the last 2 winters we have been able to support 39 different homeless visitors. Their feedback says it all: “Helped me keep sane”
“It’s got me off the streets in snow and cold. Been able to shower and meeting people in the same situations homeless.”
“I came in sick and The Living Room helped me to stand up again. I don’t have words to describe how grateful I am.”
“a friendly atmosphere, a decent night’s kip, good food”
“Gave me a sense of not everyone’s bad or selfish”
In order to be able to run again this winter we need funding to provide food and support time for our visitors.