Extra shelter for rough sleepers on key holiday dates

Published Monday, 23rd December 2019

Harp Southend Logo

People who are sleeping rough will have somewhere safe to stay on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.

This year the Church Winter Night Shelter scheme, run by Love Southend, HARP and Southend-on-Sea Borough Council, has been unable to secure a venue for Tuesday nights, which includes Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.

But a location has now been set aside for those two key Tuesday nights, so those who need a place to stay for the night, can wake in a warm bed on Christmas Day and on 1 January 2020.

Anyone who is rough sleeping and wants to make use of the Churches Winter Night Shelters must be referred via HARP’s Bradbury Day Centre, 103-107 York Road, Southend-on-Sea, between 9am and 1pm, Monday to Friday. Full details will be provided to service users upon referral.

Cllr Ian Gilbert, leader of the council, said: “Every effort was made by the council and its partners to find a suitable location for Tuesdays, in time for Christmas Eve and in the hope the venue would be able to carry on providing the service in the New Year. Unfortunately it was not possible, but in good conscious we cannot allow the town’s rough sleepers to wake up on Christmas Day on the streets. We had to provide something.

“The scheme has grown over the years and become an important part of the town’s provision for rough sleepers, with figures showing how it can make a lasting impact on some of our rough sleepers. This only happens thanks to partnership working and our 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.”

It is the ninth year, the Church Winter Night Shelters add around 20 extra sleeping spaces per night, for rough sleepers in the local area, as churches across Southend open their doors for one night a week each from 2nd December 2019 to 29th March 2020.

John Simmons, co-ordinator for the Church Winter Night Shelters and Love Southend, said: “We could not do this without the generosity of the local churches and volunteers and I am pleased to say we are hopeful we have secured a venue for Tuesday nights from January onwards – we are just waiting final confirmation.”

As well as providing a hot meal and a warm, 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, Southend’s homeless charity, manages referrals and ensure that users of the service sign up to a simple action plan to address their needs.

Jackie Bliss, HARP’s Chief Executive, said: “Whilst it is tragic to think that people are resorting to sleeping on the streets at this time of year, we are thankful that the Southend Churches Winter Night Shelters partnership is now able to accommodate people on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.

“This is a real achievement for Southend-on-Sea Borough Council, and we thank them for working tirelessly to make this happen. We encourage anyone who is homeless or at risk of becoming homeless to come to the Bradbury Day Centre in York Road to find out more about the services and accommodation that are available to them.”

Last year, 156 people were given a place to sleep for at least one night over the winter season, and 67% of those who were referred by HARP to the Church Shelters did not return to the streets by the time the Shelters closed for the season.

If you want to get involved and volunteer for the scheme, please contact John Simmons, Southend Churches Winter Night Shelters Coordinator, at [email protected] or call 07483 825298.