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Charity, churches and council unite to help local homeless people

HARP - Southend’s homeless charity, local churches and Southend-on-Sea Borough Council have once again teamed up to provide extended night shelters to Southend’s homeless community throughout the winter months, from December through to the end of March. The partnership was set up in 2011 after the Council reached out to local churches and HARP.

Now in its sixth year, there are seven churches taking part, adding up to 20 extra beds to the 18 night shelter rooms available at HARP all year round. The provision was set up in response to the growing number of rough sleepers who found themselves with nowhere to go in the bitter winter months.

Last year, over a third of people that visited the night shelters went on to be offered housing by HARP, the council and other agencies by springtime. This year, the partnership aims to better this by empowering guests to work on any issues that might have led to them becoming homeless. Working with a HARP team member, they will create and work through a personalised action plan towards achievable goals.

The partnership encourages any person that has become homeless or is at risk of homelessness to go to HARP’s Bradbury Centre located on York Road, a warm and safe place for them to recover from the harsh reality of living on the streets. Each individual that walks through the doors will sit down with a team member from HARP to discuss their situation. HARP will then offer them accommodation, depending on their needs and what is available. In the winter months, thanks to the generosity and hard work of the participating churches and their volunteers, this will include the Southend Churches Winter Night Shelters provision.

Gary Turner, HARP’s Service Operations Manager, said "The extended night shelters are a great opportunity for people to be safe, secure and warm, whilst also engaging with us to move their lives forward. We are really pleased to continue this partnership, which has become a vital service for local homeless people over the winter months. It is great to collaborate again and evolve together to ensure that vulnerable people in Southend are receiving the best possible support to help them now, whilst ultimately working towards a life away from the streets.”

Co-Ordinator of the Churches Winter Night Shelters, John Simmons, added “It is fantastic to be coordinating the Southend Churches Winter Night Shelters for a 6th winter. We’ve seen over 100 guests each season, and I would like to thank everyone who has been involved along the way. We anticipate more guests this year than ever before, so everybody’s continued hard work is incredibly valued. Most Shelters have enough volunteers although more are always welcome especially those who are willing to stay overnight. It is a great reward to see guests move forward in their lives, with many getting help from HARP, the Council and other agencies, and some of them even coming off the streets and being housed.”

Executive Councillor for Housing, Mark Flewitt, said "The winter night shelters are vital in our bid to keep rough sleepers off the streets during the coldest months of the year, and we are very pleased and to help fund and plan the scheme again this year. We have strong working partnerships with the Love Southend faith group and HARP which means that by working together we can offer this much needed service. I must thank everyone involved in this great scheme, which ensures people can access food, shelter and companionship.”

If you would like to get involved, and especially if you can stay overnight, please contact: John Simmons at

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