Church Winter Night Shelters See Success Improve By 31%

Published Monday, 3rd December 2018

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As well as providing a warm and safe place to sleep, the project aims to help people move off the streets in the long term, by providing links to relevant agencies in the town.

HARP, Love Southend and Southend Borough Council are pleased to announce the success of last year’s Southend Churches Winter Night Shelters, as they gear up to once again provide additional space for homeless people in Southend to sleep through the winter months.

Last year, 71% of the people who were referred by HARP to the Church Shelters did not return to the streets by the time the Shelters closed for the season. This is a 31% increase on 2016/17, when the success rate was an already impressive 54%.

Even for those who were unable to find accommodation, positive steps were taken with six people signposted to substance misuse services, five to group counselling and nine engaged with a local GP to deal with acute and chronic medical issues.

Set up in 2011, in response to the growing number of rough sleepers who had nowhere to go in the bitter winter months, the partnership is now entering its eighth consecutive season.

The Southend Churches Winter Night Shelters will add 20 extra bed spaces per night as seven churches across Southend open their doors for one night a week each from 3 December to 24 March 2019.

This year, the partnership will continue to give people staying at the churches the best possible chance of beating homelessness by helping them to address any issues that might be surrounding their homelessness through commitment to a personalised action plan.

The partnership encourages anyone who has become homeless or is at risk of homelessness to go to HARP’s Bradbury Centre, where they can be helped to recover from the harsh reality of living on the streets. Every individual who walks through the doors will sit down with a HARP worker to discuss their situation. Depending on their needs and what is available, HARP may be able to offer them a space in one of their hostels. In the winter months, thanks to the generosity and hard work of the participating churches and their volunteers, the number of spaces available increases by 20 each night.

Co-Ordinator of the Churches Winter Night Shelters, John Simmons, said: “I have been the Co-Ordinator of the Southend Churches Winter Night Shelters since we started. We have provided a hot meal, a bed and breakfast to over 100 guests every winter, and I would like to thank everyone involved in hosting and running the Shelters, and volunteering at them.

“We anticipate welcoming many guests this winter, so everybody’s continued hard work in helping them is incredibly valued. Volunteers are always needed, especially those who are willing to stay overnight.

“It is a great joy to see guests move forward in their lives, with many getting help from HARP, the Council and other agencies. Some of them take major steps towards beating their addictions, whilst others are able to come off the streets and find housing.

“We thank God that we are able to be a key element of this successful partnership.”

HARP’s Service Operations Manager, Gary Turner, added: “The Southend Churches Winter Night Shelters partnership is a fantastic example of what happens when different agencies, faith groups and members of the public pull together to help vulnerable people. For us, the measure of success is the number of people who don’t return to the streets when the Church Shelters close, so to see this success rate improve to 71% of HARP referred guests is fantastic.

“We’d like to place on record our huge thanks to the churches and the volunteers who make this possible.

“There is still work to do, and we are looking forward to the challenge of increasing the success rate again this year, helping more people overcome homelessness for good.”

Cllr Tony Cox, Southend-on-Sea Borough Council Cabinet Member for Adults and Housing, said: “The church night shelters scheme has grown year on year, making a lasting impact on some of our rough sleepers and I’m really proud that through partnership working, we have built up such an effective night shelter system across the Borough.

“No-one wants to see their fellow human sleeping outside during the cold winter months. A huge thank you to the churches for giving up their space and the amazing volunteers who give so much of their time to make sure the shelters are open, staffed and that help is there for those who need it most.”

HARP have produced an Impact Report, providing full detail of the success of last year’s partnership, which is available on their website.

The shelters are in need of additional volunteers to help homeless guests. If you would like to get involved, please contact John Simmons.