The Southend Churches Winter Night Shelters, which have supported homeless people in Southend with overnight shelter from harsh conditions for the past 6 winters, have now closed after another successful season.
The Shelters are a partnership between seven local churches, HARP (Southend’s homeless charity) and Southend-on-Sea Borough Council, and provide an additional 20 beds on top of HARP’s all year round 18 bed hostel, and have again supported many rough sleepers to find warmth and shelter this winter.
HARP values this vital partnership as the need for shelter surges in the cold weather, and the additional beds provided by the churches each night mean that together they can provide 170 beds across the town for those that might otherwise be sleeping on the streets. This support is so valuable during the colder months as the harsh weather can be challenging, but as the weather looks to improve and the Church Shelters close, HARP will continue to support local homeless people to move away from a life on the streets.
Whilst shelter is so important to the health and wellbeing of a rough sleeper, the journey to move away from the streets - for good - is much more complicated. The partnership between HARP and the local churches offers a rounded approach to addressing the needs of those who are homeless with the perfect combination of emergency intervention and long-term solutions.
Gary Turner, Service Operations Manager at HARP said “The Winter Night Shelters are a great example of co-operation between services in the town. HARP and the churches both provide different services but when we come together our impact is so much greater than the sum of its parts”.
HARP provide a comprehensive blend of support to help those that are either homeless, or at risk of becoming homeless, to recognise and overcome the issues that are preventing them from finding and sustaining a home of their own. This can include addressing alcohol or substance misuse, providing financial training, boosting employability and confidence to help individuals find employment opportunities, and a variety of other emotional and practical support. Many that used the Winter Night Shelters have gone on to engage with treatment agencies, access training and employment opportunities, register with a GP, and now have access to more secure accommodation.
Jason Nice, a former church winter night shelter guest who has now successfully found accommodation with support from HARP, said "I don't know personally what I would have done if I hadn't had access to the night churches. It was the biggest weight lifted off my mind."