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You are in: Suffolk > People > No Home > The Big Issue: Homeless in Ipswich

The Big Issue vendor Tom Collier

Tom Collier selling The Big Issue

The Big Issue: Homeless in Ipswich

Vendors are again calling for a night shelter for Suffolk's county town. There are currently 16 people registered to sell the magazine in Ipswich. Some of them have got roofs over their heads, but only temporarily.

Pretty much viewed as a Good Idea by everyone, sellers buy the Big Issue magazine for 60p and sell it at £1.40. Registration is approved at the magazine's regional office in Norwich and in Ipswich it's distributed by the YMCA charity shop on Westgate Street.

YMCA shop, Westgate Street

YMCA shop, Westgate Street

The shop gets 10p for every issue they sell.

"For the first few weeks it's a bit of a game finding places to stay, but it soon becomes a hell of a struggle. The main problem is having nowhere to "

David Hines, Big Issue vendor

Tom's story

32-year-old Tom Collier's pitch is at the top of The Walks opposite the entrance to the Tower Ramparts Shopping Centre. He started selling in the first week of 2006 "I was working for a production company in Colchester and living there with my partner, but we had a relationship breakdown and the house was in her name.

"I went to live at my mum's in Brantham, but she emigrated to France. I did go a bit off the rails with the drink and ended up in trouble with the police and ended up in a probation hostel then I got a job in Felixstowe, but ended up living in a tent on the seafront under a cafe near the public toilets.

The Big Issue

Tom tries to drum up trade

"It was OK in the summer but it got a bit choppy in the winter."

David's story

David Hines has been selling the Big Issue for a couple of years "I also had a marriage breakdown.

Ipswich Community Resource Centre, Old Foundry Rd

Ipswich Community Resource Centre

I decided to give her some space, had no friends to go to and ended up living on the street.

For the first few weeks it's a bit of a game finding places to stay, but it soon becomes a hell of a struggle. The main problem is having nowhere to wash which means you can't get a job.

I have ended up begging when I haven't had any money to buy the magazine.  Most people just tell you to get a job, but selling the Issue is different."

Tom's experience as a seller

"It's a great thing the Big Issue. I've only been doing it for a week, but I've sold 30 copies on a Saturday. Many people give you £1.50 or £2.00 and let you keep the change, some just give you the money without wanting the mag.

"Because it's a weekly magazine apparently you get your regular customers, but I'm still learning how to do it from the more experienced sellers. I am still looking for a normal job as well."

Soon to be homeless again?

Tom and David live together but they've got behind with the rent and expect to be evicted soon. David says sleeping on the streets poses problems.

"The Salvation Army soup kitchen is a godsend. Without that I think a lot of us would be in serious, serious trouble.

"You can't go to supermarkets because you can't cook food, so you have to get hot food at takeaways which eats up your money."

Night Shelter needed?

David says Ipswich should follow the example of Colchester which has a place to drop into overnight.

"For example, when I was living on the streets a group of us used to sleep in the Blockbuster video store carpark. However, the police always moved us on at some point and we'd get sheer hell of them."

The local authority view

Is this the whole picture though? The YMCA on Norwich Road has 64 studio flats (which they fill themselves) and 41 hostel places for people who turn up at the door.

The Salvation Army's Lyndon House has 40 rooms. The Conservative leader of Ipswich Borough Council Liz Harsant says there's been no change of policy since the years of Labour-control.

"We do have three emergency beds at Wilbury House on Norwich Road for one-night stays. However, we don't feel a nightshelter is a permanent solution for the council.

"We don't think council taxpayers would be prepared to foot the bill for opening one given the recent rises in bills. We're trying to follow the example of Norwich.

"I'm involved with the Ipswich Community Resource Centre which offers drop in facilities between 8pm-10pm Thursday to Sunday.

"I think the long-term solution is for the private sector or charities to offer a night shelter and we're working towards that goal. It's not something we can justify spending public money on."

last updated: 26/11/2008 at 14:36
created: 13/01/2006

Have Your Say

Should taxpayers' money be spent on a nightshelter? Should it be left to the charities? Should we have any sympathy for homeless people?

The BBC reserves the right to edit comments submitted.

yes i feel really sorry for the homless people me and my family pay for them.

The council state - "I think the long-term solution is for the private sector or charities to offer a night shelter and we're working towards that goal. It's not something we can justify spending public money on." - How disgusting and arrogant is that? Do these councilors really have a clue about the issues surrounding homelessness. The council are looking to the private sector? Why? The council have a responsibility to all of their residents whether they live in a brick built house and pay council tax or not.

It is absolutely ridiculous that Ipswich doesnt have a night shelter. There are homeless people in tents with foot rot, what sort of Society do we live in? Do people really care. It could happen to them quite easily with so few jobs out there. Tents in 2009 if you are lucky others are sharing doorways with bags of rubbish. These people need help, please have a heart, Ipswich Borough Council!
Jennifer Lynch

I have worked and contributed to society all my life, but because of falling earnings (13% in 10 years) and rising costs (60% in same 10 years) and redundancies (4 in past 15 years) and having to 'start at the bottom of the earnings ladder' everytime I get made redundant, (and for past 2 years have only found a couple of short term temp jobs so I have been mostly unemployed) I am now in a position where I have to sell my house and I will soon be 'homeless'. I cannot find cheap accomodation anywhere, ironically my mortgage was cheaper than any rental accomodation but the benefits system doesnt pay enough to satisfy my mortgage provider and the costs of running a house which has left me in debt, (which I hope to pay off with what little equity I have left when I sell my house). (although you can claim all of your rent, where is the sense in that? rent somewhere at a cost of £600 and benefits will pay it all, buy somewhere at a cost of £250 a month and benefits will only pay a third of it ??!!) (Maybe I am better off with 'nothing' then I might get more 'help'?)I know for a fact that some of these homeless have been in the same or similiar situation so anyone that 'looks down on' or judges the homeless should think again.I am a reasonably skilled person but the work I have most experience in has gone to China and India. I cannot afford to retrain and there seems to be no funding/help from the government in this matter.This is just a reflection of the 'society' in this country and while many people have reminded me that there are many countries in a worse state, I ask "are we a third world country"? I do note that the very wealthy are getting very wealthier and to achieve this they must accumulate their riches from somewhere so the easiest way to do this is to 'squeeze' more from the poorer. But lets not put the entire blame on this country, its a global problem and I believe that wealth distribution requires a global solution.

Some people on here should be ashamed.. anyone can land up in difficult times/situations does that mean they should be forced to live on the streets. A couple of years ago an eldery homeless man approached me just before christmas asking for money for a cup ot tea, I carried on walking and met my dad for lunch, when I told him what happened he asked me why I didn't give him something, I said "because he will probably spend it on drink" and my dad said "it's Christmas what else has he got, if he's living on the streets with no friends and family" that stuck with me over the years and I completely changed the way I think and the way I see this world... Why are immigrants allowed into the country and supplied with houses, allowances when we have our own hard working citizens living on the streets - this country is a disgrace and makes me feel embarrassed to be British!

im sure if we were as unfortunate as these people we would want a night shelter and want taxpayers to pay after all we are all part of a society that should be helping each other and many of these people no doubt in their time have paid taxes.i think sympathy isnt the word that i would use for the homeless, more that we should be more understanding. lets face it some peoples perseption of the homeless as if life is good for them then why would no-one swap places with them then


I feel that those on the streets and homeless,should be given,some kind of accomadation, i have a son that has, in the past lived rough on the streets and on the beaches, The councils should use empty house that have been empty so long ,just rotting, when they could be put to good use for the homeless. Please make 2009 the homless of the streets .Thinking of you all out there, wishing you all the best.

Homeless people should be taken care of and taken off the streets. It not always their fault if they happen to become homeless; people this christmas should all be happy, not sleeping rough in bins etc. ITS OUT OF ORDER, someone help them! The council needs to get their act together and do something to help these poor people.
Natalie, Abbey, Beth n Rach

Yes homeless people should have somewhere to go to at night. One of those homeless guys in Ipswich is my brother. He had the same upbringing as me but never coped with life and has lived rough for over 15 years. It tears at my heart to see him. He is clearly now mentally ill, i'd describe him as dead behind the eyes and its so sad. Some organisation somewhere is looking after him but the thought of him and all the other homeless people sleeping in the cold is awful. I think we should have sympathy for homeless people as for most they are where they are not through fault of their own, and some just simply can't cope with life. For all those people who don't think we should help, try living knowing that you have a loved one out there who you don't know anymore, it hurts.

I knew Tom. We were best mates as kids and my heart goes out to him. Seeing him in such a difficult position breaks my heart. If anyone knows how I can get hold of him please contact me at Thanks

build them a shelter go on....they have can get jobs though our council....Rubbish collectors also rubbish picker look at the bags on the a14/a12 slip road at tesco clean that mess up and prove that the mess you made of beingkicked out of where you lived that u mean what u say u all something about it.....
ippy boi

liz harsant has yet to experience hardship,she also needs to wake up and realise maybe tax payers like myself find it disgusting OUR MONEY FUNDS HER HUGE WAGE were we asked if we minded that?or the expenses she claims on top of that wage?were we asked if we minded OUR money going on that?i know where i want my taxes to go and its not on topping up weekly jaunts for council members

Sympathy?no,compassion yes,there but for the grace of god go i.If major citys like Hull can fund them why can't ipswich?maybe the council here should ask Hull how they managed it so well?
mrs johnson

Its obsurd that people are homeless in Ipswich and the hostels are full of foreigners in receipt of housing benefits.
Hayley Jay

The measure of a civilised society is how it treats its most vulnerable and disadvantaged members. What does that say about us all. Homeless individuals are not all drink and drug dependent. We all have a responsability to assist these individuals and create a night shelter somehow. The council should lead by example.
Sharon Hughes

I think for once the tax payers money should be spent on something of use ie a homeless shelter rather than lining the pockets of the directors ect. homeless people what ever there circumstances even if they did bring it on them selves still deserve a second chance and a roof over there heads at night! Building a shelter will also stop crime and sexual assaults on unfortunate young females like sammi (previous com-mentor) The trouble is society is so het up with worrying about immigrants wether they agree or not and there forgetting about our own British citizens!We need to start looking after our own and stop putting others first!!!!!!!
Rhianna Felixstowe

i'm a 19 yr old female and i am now homeless due to my mother abandoning me! Is that my fault? i don't earn enough to live on my own! And not having a home address makes it extremley hard to keep a job! I have done everything i can to get a roof over my head but as i'm not an alcoholic, reliant on drugs, a self halmer or prehaps an illegal imagrant i'm not entitled to anything! so i find it rather rude and insensitive not having sympathy for homeless people! Not everyone brings it onto themselves!!

Yes build a shelter, but make them earn the roof they seek by helping to clean up our town. Then we can see who REALLY wants help
Ipswich Man

Its interesting that the uk has always been proud to be a caring sympathetic nation and this is marred by small minded individuals who love to 'dump' on those less fortunate in society. No one likes spongers and yes a few do exist but, most are genuine folk who for whatever reason find themselves in trouble and unable to climb back out. Those who 'dump' on homeless people in order to feel good about themselves really are weak dispicable idiots. I think those having a spell of bad luck should be helped by tax payers money in order to help themselves. I for one am proud to be British [most of time] and to be a caring compassionate person. CALLEN [The Voice]
CALLEN [The Voice]

one guy earned £45 on sat selling big issue and he's new to it that about minimum wage so maybe if they laid off the alcohol and spent there money wisley they'd be better off and not be living on the streets and if they could be bothered they could earn enough with the big issue to rent somewhere and share the costs between a couple of them sorted its just a case of they can't be bothered and want hand outs

of course we council tax payers should spend money on a nightshelter anyone can become homeless, we should say there but for the grace of god go i
Cathy walsh

In reply to ROY ANDREWS & ANDY.Six weeks ago I was laid-off (being self-employed I received no redundancy payment).Shortly thereafter my landlord took the opportunity to give me notice to quit (not for being behind with the rent but merely for being unemployed).I did not 'sign-on' but used my savings to live on.Although I am now working again (as of last week) I no longer have the required one months advance rent and deposit for another flat.So, as of tomorrow (15th June) I am homeless.The irony is that I am labouring on a building site...So, despite not being "vagrants, the sick, immigrants and those who will not work" nor "scroungers, who should not be subsidised to live the [sic] free and easy lives" I would be very grateful for a night shelter.Lacking such facilities I will (for the month or so it will take me to save some money) be breaking my back on site all day then looking for somewhere to pitch my tent.
(not so) Lucky Jim

yh we shud hav sympathy for honmeless people its not there fault they homeless they might not have enough money houses cost to much these days

i think that we should have money left over and have sympthy on homeless.and i dont think that a tax payer should have extra money and help


People do not choose to live on the street, sleep in the cold, live in fear of being threatened and abused by members of the public. I think some of you should go and talk to a big issue vendor and see what they have been through in their life. If someone becomes homeless in Ipswich or the local area where do they have to go? Why is up to a charity to provide a night shelter when the local government should be looking after the local people.
Caroline Jones

the local councils should learn from the gypsy community ie a caravan and an empty field is better than nowhere for homeless people to live

Of course we need a night shelter.Perhaps some of our council members could contribute some of their 'expenses' towards this. Glad to read so many positve comments for this idea.
angie cooper

I think alot of there problems are of there own making, and people have said i'm genrally a heartless person. But i have to admit to getting a tear in my eye sometimes when you see people out on the street on a cold winter night. Is this really what life in labour britain is about? But i do find i cant find any information on how i can help these people. I'm not into given money to charity, i pay my taxes for that. but i would be happy to give a little time or food were needed. But where do i go to get started??
Jonathan Drake

Like most of the other comments I also naively thought public money was to be spent for the benefit of all members of the public. There can be very few homeless people who choose this way of life. I want my Council Tax spent on hostels for both adults and children many of whom risk exploitation at the hands of pimps, drug suppliers and the like. It is in all our interests to help these people. Services for the disadvantaged should not have to rely on charitable money. Shame on Liz Harsant.

If we all remember "there but for the grace of God go I.." then we should not object to taxpayers money being used on a nightshelter. Until the planners of this country force the building of low-cost housing the situation will get worse. Every village in Suffolk is short of low cost affordable homes. When our young people grow up where will they live? How many of them might be glad of a night shelter? We could be talking about OUR children!Make your voices heard - we must all support the less well-off in our society and stop moaning about them.
Michael Hockley

i think some times life can be hard, they may have been abandoned so in that situation its not there fault so people should give

What a shambles that we still have this situation. We are so short sighted in this country. Who does the councillor thinks foots the bill when the homeless become unwell and require hospitalisation? "It's ok for the NHS to pay as long as the council are in budget". Either way it's us tax payers. Let's be proactive not reactive and have a longer term vision.

It's called public money for a reason - it's there for the public! What typical Conservative arrogance; as if homeless people haven't ever Paid council tax or contributed to society in their lives. If Cllr Harsant can't justify spending Our money on public facilities, then perhaps she isn't jsutified to be leader of Our council.

Homeless people are scroungers, who should not be subsidised to live the free and easy lives.

yes, taxpayer's money shuold be spent on a nightshelter so no one has to sleep on the streets. It should not just be up to charities to spend money on it because there is other important things EG. cancer reserch, and stuff like that. But i reckon they should just give a bit of money. Yes, we should have sympathy for the homeless it's not realy there foult they are on the streets there are a range of things that can cause it EG. getting beat up by mum or dad, getting bullied by other people around there street, mum and dad are alcoholic or argue all the time and there's lots, lots more reasons than this.
Sarah B

No, I pay my taxes to get my rubbish collected, police my streets, and educate my children. I do not pay taxes for vagrants, the sick, immigrants and those who will not work.
Roy Andrews

what does the councillor mean "it's not something we should be spending public money on?" AS a tax payer myslef this is EXACTLY what councils should be doing , along with commnunity faciilties for families, young people, the elderley and libraries. Not wasted money on park and ride schemes, and new council office buildings
andrew corston

I am in the process of becoming a social worker and i really think that it should because they obviously have enough money because they're paying tax. And ofcourse we should have sympathy! Theyre out on the streets on their own with no one to look after them and there are common problems such as drug abuse and alcohol abuse.It isn't right to leave them on their own. We should all feel a great shame that we don't do more to help people like this. In this world we need to look after the unfortunates!!
Jenny Jones

I work with homeless young people, and contrary to the belief of some people, young people often have to leave home for good reason. The homelessness situation in Suffolk is dire at the moment, and I am sure it must be elsewhere. A nightshelter in Ipswich which is accessible for under 18s, as well as adults, would be very useful (but just a drop in the ocean)
Ruth Brooks

Yes we should have a night shelter. Tyhis would be cost effective in the long term and would see a decline in street crime etc
des welham

Yes we should spend taxpayers' money for a shelter where people can stay for a limited time span. This might help them to stay clean, get some self-respect and have more chance of finding work.
Adrienne Marriott

Absolutley it should. There but for luck go any of us - just read the accounts on the page. And rather than pay a fortune to get it built commercially, why not get volunteers to build it and add a bit of prode to the thing??
Toby Younge

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