20 extra places to sleep for local homeless people this winter

Published Thursday, 16th November 2017

image for communities, neighbourhoods and the environment

Southend-on-Sea Borough Council has teamed up with local homeless charity HARP and local churches to provide somewhere for homeless people to sleep through the winter months.

Now in its seventh year, the church winter night shelters will add up to 20 extra places to sleep for local homeless people at seven different churches across Southend. The partnership was set up in 2011, in response to the growing number of rough sleepers who found themselves with nowhere to go through the winter months. Each shelter offers a hot evening meal, companionship, a safe place to sleep and breakfast in the morning.  Some shelters also have shower facilities for the guests. 

Last year, 54% of the people who stayed at the churches did not return to the streets by the time they closed for the season on March 28th. For those that were unable to find accommodation by the end of the season, plenty of positive steps were taken with 18 being signposted to treatment services, 10 to group therapy and 6 to a local GP. This was seen as a fantastic success by everyone involved. This year, the partnership will continue to give people staying at the churches the best possible chance of beating homelessness by empowering them to address any issues that might be surrounding their homelessness through the development of a personalised action plan. 

The partnership are encouraging any person that has become homeless or is at risk of homelessness to go to HARP’s Bradbury Centre, a warm and safe place for them to recover from the harsh reality of living on the streets. Each individual that walks through the doors will sit down with a team member from HARP to discuss their situation. HARP will then offer them a bed space in one of their hostels, depending on their needs and what is available. In the winter months, thanks to the generosity and hard work of the participating churches and their volunteers, the number of spaces on offer increases through the Church Winter Night Shelters.

Cllr Mark Flewitt, Executive Councillor for Housing, says:  “The winter night shelters help ensure people can access food, shelter and companionship and are absolutely vital in our bid to keep rough sleepers off the streets during the coldest months of the year.  We are therefore very pleased to help fund and plan this much needed service again this year, thanks to our strong partnership with the Love Southend faith group and HARP. Not only does this project provide much needed shelter, it also enables us all to provide further support, treatment, and help where we can, and in many cases get people off the streets for good.  I must thank everyone involved in this great scheme.”
John Simmons, Co-Ordinator of the Churches Winter Night Shelters, says: “It is fantastic to be coordinating the Southend Churches Winter Night Shelters for a 6th winter. We’ve seen over 100 guests each season, and I would like to thank everyone who has been involved along the way.

 “We anticipate more guests this year than ever before, so everybody’s continued hard work is incredibly valued. Most Shelters have enough volunteers although more are always welcome especially those who are willing to stay overnight.

“It is a great reward to see guests move forward in their lives, with many getting help from HARP, the Council and other agencies, and some of them even coming off the streets and being housed.”

Gary Turner, HARP’s Service Operations Manager, added: “The Church Winter Night Shelters are a great opportunity for people to be safe, secure and warm, whilst also engaging with us to move their lives forward.

“We are very proud to be part of this partnership, which has become a vital service for local homeless people over the winter months. After the success of last year, it is great to continue to collaborate and evolve together so that we can ensure that vulnerable people in Southend are receiving the best possible support to help them now, whilst ultimately working towards a life away from the streets.”

If you would like to get involved, there are roles available for overnight volunteers. Contact John Simmons via email.