Unauthorised campers removed from Cliff Gardens

Published Wednesday, 30th December 2015

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Court bailiffs have today acted to remove the last remaining people camping in Cliff Gardens.

Assisted by officers from Essex Police, the bailiffs dealt with the matter at 11:00 this morning, executing a Possession Order granted by Southend County Court earlier in the month.

Since the summer, the Council has helped 23 people camping in various seafront locations to access support services and move on. Unfortunately a few declined all offers of help and have continued to camp in breach of the Court Order.

Council Leader, Ron Woodley, said: “This course of action brings me absolutely no pleasure but I feel we have explored and exhausted every avenue available to us over the past few months to help these people.

“Our Borough has some of the best services for homeless people in the region and currently has a winter night shelter scheme operating until March. We have a fantastic group of volunteers in the town who freely give up their time and resources to provide food and shelter for those in need, and I thank them for all they do.

“For their own welfare, these final few people must move on. It is getting colder and wetter weather is forecast. This is an unsafe area that has experienced cliff slippage and is still subject to land movement, so there is a real risk that they could be seriously injured if they stay. Compounding that risk, their living conditions are becoming increasingly unsanitary, which not only endangers their own health but also carries a wider public health risk.

“It has been extremely difficult to decide on the appropriate course of action, and over the past few months I have spoken both to people who have urged legal action and others who have urged us to allow them to stay. We have a duty to help and protect homeless people which we must balance with our duty to maintain our parks for the enjoyment of residents and visitors.

“Instead of facilitating rough sleeping by allowing camping in parks, we have tried to help these people to get into accommodation where a professional support network is available to address their needs.

“I am pleased that many have taken up offers of support, and it is my sincere hope that the last few who have been moved on today will now start to engage with organisations that could help them to build a better future for themselves.”

Background:

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.

In total, our outreach workers have engaged with over 30 individuals on Cliff Gardens, 23 of whom have moved on, with at least 15 of those 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.

Since September we have seen more people join the area and subsequently leave.

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

Night shelters:

For the last three winters, seven churches have been able to cover one night a week each.

They provided meals and shelter for 155 guests in 2012 - 13, 137 guests in 2013 - 14, and 125 guests in 2014 - 15.

This winter, the night shelters opened on Monday 23 November and will run until 18 March (17 weeks).  HARP are allocating guests (20 maximum each night) to the shelters by using an agreed referral process. Therefore, potential guests should go to HARP’s Bradbury Centre (in York Road) before 2pm (Monday - Friday only).