HARP have been helping people overcome homelessness in Southend for 15 years this October, and we are celebrating by opening a new charity shop in Leigh-on-Sea to help raise funds so we can continue our work for years to come.
HARP was originally a small group of volunteers that worked together to help those in the town find shelter and support away from the streets. However, over the years HARP has evolved to become a trusted and credible charity receiving support from national funders such as the Big Lottery. HARP have also won many awards during the last 15-years, most recent highlights include the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service in 2012, and a High Sheriff’s Award in 2014. HARP complement other services in the town, such as food banks and soup kitchens which help people with immediate needs, collectively this provides people with all the necessary support to help them overcome homelessness for good.
Before the emergence of HARP as we now know it, there were two separate day and night provisions in the town that were half an hour walk apart. The merger of these services provided a one-stop shop for those facing homelessness which included a safe place for assessment, advice, medical and housing support, meal provision and emergency housing. By 2004 HARP had already reduced rough sleeping in Southend by two-thirds and subsequently received a gold award from the council in recognition of their efforts.
HARP spent considerable time in their early years building strong foundations; this included the introduction of a new Board of Trustees, the recruitment of Chief Executive Gill Garwood, and a more sustainable approach to tackling the town’s homelessness issue. Fast forward 15 years and HARP now have 174 beds, which is a vast difference to the 14 bed spaces they had in 2002, and they have consistently supported over 1,000 people each and every year.
On refection of the past 15 years our Chief Executive, Gill Garwood, said: “When HARP began, we had a clear vision of a charity that provided the right accommodation and the right support, to the right people, and we are proud to be doing just that. We provide a diverse range of indiscriminate support to anyone that is at risk of homelessness in Southend, and are now successfully supporting over 500 people a year avoid homelessness completely.
“We are blessed with a team of skilled staff, dedicated volunteers, and an abundance of community support that provides us with the tools we need to drive rough sleeping down. We are pleased to say that while homelessness is a rising problem nationally, we are seeing a reduction in rough sleeping in Southend as many now find refuge in HARP’s accommodation.”
HARP have introduced a number of specialist services over the last 15-years but a major milestone was taking on the management of a 38 bed property in 2009. Not only did this significantly increase the charity’s ability to offer beds to homeless people, it was also the introduction of a service geared towards helping young homeless adults turn their lives around. The combination of a disadvantage childhood and limited training or employment opportunities can make a successful transition to adulthood very difficult. For this reason HARP aim to boost education, training and employment opportunities for young homeless people in Southend as well as focusing on essential life skills, counselling and ongoing support to improve future prospects.
HARP have developed many services over the years, including rehabilitation from drug and alcohol misuse, support for ex-offenders, and a new single gender hostel for homeless women. Whilst HARP’s main objective is, and always has been, to support local homeless people, what has developed over the last 15-years is a huge array of services that don’t just serve to eliminate homelessness, but also offer safe accommodation, improved health outcomes and better life chances.
We would like to invite our support to attend the opening of our new charity shop, and help us celebrate 15 years, at 309 Eastwood Road North, SS9 4LT, on Friday 20th October at 10am.