Sanctus – helping homeless people in Chelmsford
The number of people turning to a homeless charity in Chelmsford for support has more than doubled in recent months.
Sanctus, a charity tackling homelessness and other vulnerabilities, was seeing about 170 people each month from January to March this year – a figure which has leapt to 360 over the summer months.
As a result, the charity opened a new building – three times the size of its previous base in the city.
It means far more people are being provided with the help they need to get their lives back on track.
The Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for Essex (PFCC) contributed £18,000 to Sanctus from the 2022-23 Crime Prevention Fund to enable it to keep its café open for longer periods of time to help more people and offer more services.
Roger Hirst, Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner, said: “Life is difficult for so many people right now. For those who were already struggling or for whom circumstances have been affected by the pandemic or cost-of-living crisis, this kind of support is simply vital.
“A place to go where there are people waiting with open arms to provide a listening ear, a hot meal, and any other support or guidance they need is, quite literally, a lifeline.
“People faced with desperate times can turn to drugs or alcohol or commit crime, so this work is helping to prevent crime and antisocial behaviour in our communities.”
Emma Murfitt, fundraising manager, said: “In our previous building, we were bursting at the seams. Some days, we would see 90 people come through the door, but we could only cater for 30 at a time. We had outgrown the space.
“When the pandemic hit, we provided a takeaway service from a café front. We knew that in the post pandemic world we would have to accommodate growing numbers of people.
“Post pandemic, we are noticing people have regressed. Add to that the cost-of-living crisis and we are having to do more to get people back to the level they were at. People are coming to us with bills they can’t pay; they need food and other support.
“We see a real mix of people. Some have drug and alcohol problems. We get ex-offenders just released from prison. Some are nearly homeless, while others are just struggling to pay their bills, or have mental health issues and are at risk of homelessness. We do not want to see people going into – or back into – the criminal system.
“There are definitely more and more people coming to us who have not needed to use our services before. Some maybe have always struggled a little bit, but things have got so much worse.”
Sanctus operates a free café, providing breakfast, hot and cold drinks, snacks and homemade meals.
The charity also helps people to secure accommodation, support and advice, and brings together support agencies to offer a space to engage with the homeless and vulnerable, to support them in their recovery to overcome mental health and addiction issues, restore self-confidence and achieve living and community skills, independence and new homes, employment and independence.
Of the PFCC funding, Emma said: “Without this funding, we would have to reduce our hours, no longer serve meals or support as many people.
“It is really nice to have had that support over the last few years. It really does make a difference.”