Council leader urges cliff campers to accept help

Published Thursday, 24th September 2015

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The Leader of Southend-on-Sea Borough Council has today urged people illegally camping on the Cliff Gardens and open space to take up final offers of help or move on from the area.

The call comes as the council reveals that it has successfully helped 19 individuals in the area, but 10 still remain.

With the winter months approaching, Cllr Ron Woodley has made one last plea for offers of assistance to be accepted and to urge others not to join those illegally camping in the area.

Cllr Ron Woodley, Leader of the Council, says: “I urge those camping on the cliffs to take up our final offers of help.  Having made several attempts to engage with those on the cliffs and achieving success in several cases, we are getting to the stage where we have exhausted all our options for those remaining.

“In total, our outreach workers have engaged with 29 individuals on the Cliffs, 19 of which have moved on, with 15 of those either successfully accommodated, reconnected with their local area, or are continuing to engage with homeless support services locally and work towards a long term solution to their homelessness. We understand that 10 people still remain. This indicates that despite our best efforts, people are joining those that are still camping in the area.

“The Summer is now over and so we are already seeing the start of bad weather. The cliffs area can be subject to land movement and so it is not a safe or hygienic area to camp, so I would urge those remaining to take up the various offers that have been made and encourage other people not to join them.

“I do not want to be considering taking legal action against homeless people and I absolutely have compassion with their plight. However, we have gone well above and beyond what we are obliged to do, making several offers of help and support, but we are now at the stage where we reluctantly have to consider our legal options.

“Instead of facilitating rough sleeping by allowing camping in parks, our policy as a Council is to enable homeless people to get into accommodation where a professional support network is available to address their holistic needs. We have done just that and it has now been several weeks since many of their arrivals.” 

Outreach workers from St Mungos Broadway have regularly visited each of the campers on behalf of the Council to assess their housing and support needs and worked closely with local organisations including HARP, Family Mosaic, STARs, Probation, SEPT to provide support and accommodation, either within Southend or outside the Borough in the cases of those who have travelled to the area.

Offers of assistance have included:

· Night shelter accommodation

· Assistance with accessing benefits they may be entitled to

· Reconnection with support services in the areas where they have previously lived

· Referral to drug and alcohol addiction services, where appropriate

· Referral to mental health services, where appropriate