Southend-on-Sea Borough Council responded to the severe weather warnings earlier this week with the opening of the Tickfield Centre in Southend to provide shelter and safety to any rough sleepers that had not already secured temporary overnight accommodation. Guests have been provided with beds, blankets, food, and drinks, and the service has had overwhelming support from the local community.
Del Thomas, who is coordinating the volunteers for the Rest Centre, said “this really is a great example of the community pulling together. We have had support from so many different community groups, local businesses and volunteers, and it all happened so quickly.”
Southend’s homeless charity HARP provide 174 beds all year round for people that might otherwise be sleeping rough, including 38 emergency spaces. In addition, each winter the local authority fund the Churches Winter Night Shelters partnership to provide an additional 20 beds throughout the colder months. The decision to open an additional Rest Centre was made to safeguard any rough sleepers that did not already have shelter arranged. This overflow service has been life-saving for the few that could not find space within existing services.
The Tickfield Centre opened up as an emergency Rest Centre on Monday night and has been a life-line to those unable to find temporary shelter. Numbers are expected to fluctuate all week depending on the need, with HARP managing referrals to ensure safe running of the service and to provide ongoing support to people in crisis after the snow stops falling.
Rob, who has been homeless for around 2 months, couldn’t get a place in the existing shelters on Tuesday night as they were full. He was referred by HARP to the Tickfield Centre. He said “my hopes went down, I thought no, not another night on the streets, its freezing out there. But they gave me a bed here and I’m so grateful for it”.
HARP are urging people to let rough sleepers know that there is help out there. For more information or to report someone you are concerned about please call HARP on 01702 430 696.