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‘How can they survive?’ - Dereham hairdresser’s sponsored silence for Norwich’s homeless

PUBLISHED: 19:00 19 January 2019 | UPDATED: 10:51 20 January 2019

Jane Rice-Smith, right, is taking on a five hour sponsored silence for the homeless and hoping to raise £1,000. Pictured, Jane with daughter Jess Hood at their business Rouge et Noir in Dereham. Picture: IAN BURT

Jane Rice-Smith, right, is taking on a five hour sponsored silence for the homeless and hoping to raise £1,000. Pictured, Jane with daughter Jess Hood at their business Rouge et Noir in Dereham. Picture: IAN BURT

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For many of us in Norfolk, walking past a homeless man or woman on the street has become a sad part of our daily reality.

Homelessness in Norwich is a problem, but the charity St Martins has said numbers of rough sleepers are falling. Picture: ANTONY KELLYHomelessness in Norwich is a problem, but the charity St Martins has said numbers of rough sleepers are falling. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

But for Jane Rice-Smith, a hair salon owner from Dereham, stopping to speak to a young homeless man in Norwich was the start of a journey which has inspired her to raise money and increase awareness of the issue.

Miss Rice-Smith, who owns the Rouge Et Noir hairdressers in Dereham, is aiming to raise £1,000 for Norwich homelessness charity, the St Martin’s Housing Trust.

And the chatty 65-year-old is planning to make the challenge especially difficult for herself: by holding a five hour sponsored silence at her salon.

She said: “I’d love to raise £1,000. I’m going to try my hardest to get as money as I possibly can.

Jane Rice-Smith in her Dereham salon Rouge Et Noir. Picture: IAN BURTJane Rice-Smith in her Dereham salon Rouge Et Noir. Picture: IAN BURT

“St Martin’s say it costs £23 a night to give someone a bed and something to eat - I just feel so passionate about it.”

READ MORE: “We’re all just two pay cheques away from the streets”: A day in the life of a Norwich homeless charity

Miss Rice-Smith goes into Norwich once a week, and started regularly giving £1 for a coffee or a hot chocolate to a young homeless man near the bus stop.

She said: “One day I stopped and spoke to him and asked how he ended up here.

A homeless person sleeping in a Norwich shop doorway. Picture: David PowlesA homeless person sleeping in a Norwich shop doorway. Picture: David Powles

“He’d had an argument with his family - that’s how easily it could slip into bad circumstances.

“I said I wished I could take him home with me and look after him but I can’t. He said all he wanted were some clean clothes - that broke my heart.”

Miss Rice-Smith soon began taking clothes and bedding into the city with her to give to the homeless people she saw - and even took her family, including her two daughters, son-in-law and grandchildren into the city to give out clothes and blankets on Christmas Eve.

She said: “I’ve got a nice life - a warm coat and I go home to a warm bed. He’s been sleeping in Chapelfield with nowhere to go.

Dr Jan Sheldon, chief executive of St Martins Housing Trust. Picture: St Martins Housing TrustDr Jan Sheldon, chief executive of St Martins Housing Trust. Picture: St Martins Housing Trust

“How can these people survive?

“My daughter went to London and got a job but she didn’t have anywhere to live, so sofa surfed.

“One night she had nowhere to sleep - I got straight in a taxi to Norwich station and got on a train and took her to a BnB - I was lucky to be able to help her.”

Miss Rice-Smith plans to do her sponsored silence on Tuesday, March 26.

Jane Rice-Smith is hoping to raise £1,000 for St Martin's Housing Trust with her sponsored silence. Pictured, a stock photo of a homeless person on the streets. Photo: Getty/StockJane Rice-Smith is hoping to raise £1,000 for St Martin's Housing Trust with her sponsored silence. Pictured, a stock photo of a homeless person on the streets. Photo: Getty/Stock

She said: “My job is talking - I make everyone happy, I laugh, I sing. I might have to tape my mouth shut.”

To donate, contact the Rouge Et Noir hair salon in Dereham.

READ MORE: Entrepreneurial hairdresser celebrates her salon’s 10th anniversary

Jane-Rice Smith said she feels Jane-Rice Smith said she feels "passionate" about the issue of homelessness. Picture: Ian Burt

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