£1.3 Million shelter for people living rough in Southend
A £1.3 million shelter will offer a home to people living rough in Southend.
Off the Streets is converting a former hotel into a homeless shelter on the seafront, offering a place to stay for nine people at a time from December.
Once opened, the charity will continue its work in supporting rough sleepers as they strive for a more positive life – whether that be a permanent home, reconnecting with family or finding work.
The Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for Essex (PFCC) has contributed £10,000 to Off the Streets in the form of a crime and disorder reduction grant from the 2022-2023 Community Safety Development Fund to enable the charity to continue its work once the shelter opens.
Charity development officer Del Thomas, who has been supporting homeless people in Southend for 15 years as a volunteer, said: “This has been a big challenge for us, but we are really excited for the future.
“We want to help rough sleepers; that is why we set up as a group of local people in 2018. We want to give rough sleepers the opportunity to move on and improve their lives.
“People just need that helping hand when they are at their lowest. That is what is so important to us, being that helping hand and raising people’s self-esteem.
“When rough sleepers come to us, we ask what it is they want to achieve. We do not assume, as it could be they want to be reunited with family and not just about finding accommodation. We break it down into stepping stones; small targets they can achieve. They come back with massive smiles on their faces when they have achieved something.
“Being homeless does not mean being hopeless.”
The charity set up its first shelter in 2018 when Southend was named as having the eighth highest number of rough sleepers in the country – more than even the London boroughs.
Having operated in a shop unit where five people could be housed at a time, the set-up was forced to close during the pandemic – having helped to get 119 people off of the streets in two years.
Now, the charity is working to revamp the seafront hotel with a vision of helping more people in the City.
Rough sleepers are given a 28-day contract, which can be adapted so long as they are working with the charity to move forward.
Of the funding, Del said: “We have been able to do this as a result of grants and loans. We also have some great people who donate money to us each month. That has been really useful to us.
“The PFCC funding will go towards the core costs of running the shelter once it has opened. It means the world to us and enables us to concentrate on helping rough sleepers, rather than spending our time fundraising.”
PFCC Roger Hirst said: “Sometimes, people fall on hard times and find themselves without a place to call home. Especially since the pandemic and during the cost-of-living crisis. For many, that helping hand – as described by Del – is all they need to get their lives back on track and aiming in the direction they want to go in. How special that we have this charity working so hard for the people of Southend, reaching out their hands to people when they need it the most.”
Contact the charity via Facebook or offthestreetsessex.org.uk