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Council thanks community and staff for rest centre effort

Published Monday, 5th March 2018

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Southend-on-Sea’s housing councillor has praised council staff, partners, community groups, and local people for working together to open a rest centre for vulnerable people during the bad weather.

The rest centre, which opened on Monday 26 February at the Tickfield Centre and ran until this morning (Monday 5 March), was in addition to a number of existing homeless services already in place, which includes:

  • Emergency shelter accommodation run by HARP all year round for 38 people
  • Church winter night shelters that are run in partnership by the council, HARP and local churches between November and March for around 20 people
  • Temporary accommodation run by South Essex Homes for over 100 people

The rest centre was staffed by a variety of council and HARP staff, community groups and other local volunteers.

Attendance at the centre over the seven nights varied between 15 and 20 people.

Cllr Mark Flewitt, Executive Councillor for Housing, says: “The weather we saw last week was life-threatening for rough sleepers, and it was absolutely right that we opened this rest centre to support the numerous services that Southend-on-Sea already offers.

“I cannot thank all of those involved enough who have pulled together to make this happen, it has been a real community effort. I also want to thank all council officers involved who have gone above and beyond the call of duty.

“Looking ahead, the work does not stop here, and in partnership with HARP we have encouraged all those at the centre last night to attend HARP’s Bradbury Centre today to see how we can support these people moving forwards. We will look at the information we have collected about everyone who has attended, including where they are from, and how we can either connect them to our services, or re-connect them to their local area. Some will unfortunately not want that help and support, but we have and will continue to offer it.

“We will also continue to work with our neighbouring councils so that rough sleepers can get the support they need in their local communities. Once again, my heartfelt thanks to everyone involved.”

Gill Garwood, HARP Chief Executive said: “We have been totally overwhelmed with the amount of care and concern that has been shown for local homeless people during the recent bout of severe weather and would like to reassure the community that HARP will be continuing to offer support and shelter long after the cold weather has gone. Homelessness is incredibly complex and rough sleepers can find it hard to engage with support for multiple reasons, but by working together and providing a blend of emergency and long-term solutions, we can continue to empower those most at risk to move away from life on the streets for good.”

Del Thomas, Manager of the Belle Vue church winter night shelter was asked to help the council run the rest centre and he said: “Volunteering at the rest centre this week has enabled me to see the best of Southend-on-Sea. The community have well and truly pulled together to help the most vulnerable in our community. The guests have appreciated the warmth and generosity and we have managed to help move some people on in their search to be housed as well. Many of the guests also volunteered to help clear the Roots Hall pitch on Friday for Saturday’s match.  This week has well and truly shown the spirit of Southend!”