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HARP residents team up to clear up!

Photo (L-R) Southend Borough Council’s Parks Technical Officer Paul Jenkinson with Park Warden Amy Helm, HARP residents Eamonn and Jay, and Parks Management Officer, Ian Brown.

A team of residents from HARP have been commended by Southend Borough Council for their efforts in improving some of the town’s best-known landmarks and open spaces.

The ‘Motivation to Work’ project, designed to give ex-homeless residents potential routes back to employment via volunteering, provides the experience of getting back to work, with all the associated responsibilities it entails.

Working with the Council’s Parks Department, several residents made improvements to the ponds at Southchurch Hall, repainted the play park equipment in Leigh Library Gardens, as well as helping out at the cenotaph ahead of last year’s Remembrance Day event.

Awarded certificates in a ceremony at Southchurch Hall on last Thursday in recognition of their input, the team are positive about their involvement. Jan, who this week moved into a new home of his own having come to the end of his time with HARP said: ‘It felt good to give something back to the community, and I really enjoyed being part of the team’.

Eamonn said: ‘Cleaning up the cenotaph felt like a really good thing to do because it means a lot to so many people. I feel really proud of what we’ve achieved so far’.

Jay, another member of the team, is enthusiastic about the physical aspects of the scheme: ‘I like being out in the fresh air and getting my hands dirty. It’s hard work, but really rewarding to look at the finished job and think “we did that”, knowing others will enjoy the benefits of what we’ve done’.

A route back to employment...

HARP Chief Executive, Gill Garwood said: ‘A period of homelessness can really knock your confidence, making it hard to find work even once you’re back in a secure living environment. Our residents have learned a great deal from the experience of having to be at work on time, interact as part of a team and develop relationships with their colleagues. They’ve really embraced the aims of the scheme, and also proved adept at learning new skills’.

Developing practical and interpersonal skills...

Executive Councillor for Enterprise, Tourism and Economic Development, Councillor Mary Betson said: ‘What has been achieved is incredible, and we’re very lucky to have benefited from the efforts of HARP’s residents who worked so successfully with our Park Warden, Amy Helm.

‘We are very grateful for Amy’s help in developing the scheme to ensure HARP’s residents gain maximum benefit.

‘It has been so rewarding to see personal relationships and camaraderie developing between team members. It’s had a transforming effect in bringing about a brighter, happier perspective to their lives, coupled with a more positive and relaxed outlook in general’.

The team are now working on a conservation project in Belfairs Nature Reserve as part of the management plan for the reserve alongside the Essex Wildlife Trust. The Borough has 114 green and open spaces, including five award-winning parks, presenting a huge task in keeping them well-maintained to ensure residents and visitors alike can enjoy them.

With HARP’s team poised to take on more challenges, it’s clear that the benefits of the scheme are far-reaching, and make a positive impact on the enjoyment of Southend’s open and green spaces for all who use them.

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