Press Release – 20th October 2020
We are disappointed, but not surprised, that the recently issued guidance from the Ministry for Housing, Communities, and Local Government (MHCLG) will prevent us from running the Night Shelters as in previous winters. This is because moving people from church to church and asking them to sleep in “open” dormitories is far too risky from a virus-spreading point of view.
We would be able to deliver a Night Shelter if the accommodation was provided in en-suite rooms, but we have not been able to find a suitable property that is available to lease (or buy) to allow us to do that.
Southend-on-Sea Borough Council will be following Government guidance and using emergency night shelters only as a last resort and in consultation with Public Health. Instead, using funding provided by the MHCLG, they will be providing COVID-safe properties managed by HARP, and in the private rented sector to ensure that no-one is on the streets unnecessarily.
We applaud that ambition but think there will still be some people (hopefully, only a small number) they won’t be able to help. We are also concerned that the number of homeless people will rise as the ban on evictions and re-possessions finishes.
Gary Turner, Director of Service Operations at HARP (Southend’s Homeless Charity, and a partner in the Southend Churches Winter Night Shelters), said: “Every year, Southend Churches Winter Night Shelters (SCWNS) save lives by helping to keep people off the streets during the coldest months of the year. Although circumstances force us all to operate differently this winter, HARP will continue to work closely with the Council and the SCWNS to provide support and accommodation so that as many local people as possible do not have to resort to sleeping on the streets.”
The Council have asked us to use our volunteers to “befriend” all those they have moved on from the B&Bs into permanent accommodation (over 100 people); we are in the process of asking our volunteers if any are willing and able to do that sort of work.
A few of our volunteers are already helping the St Vincent de Paul (SVP) Society Westcliff at their base in Short Street as they provide meals, food parcels, clothing, and other essentials to those still in the B&Bs, local destitute families and elderly residents – some of whom are in isolation.
We are currently in discussions with Love Southend and SVP Westcliff about how we can potentially join forces for at least this winter and work out of SVP’s new base to provide the befriending service requested by the Council, and also help SVP with their on-going community-facing work.
Further updates will be provided in due course.
Finally, we are pleased to announce that Nina Stewart (nee Alleyne) is now the Co-Ordinator of the Southend Churches Winter Night Shelters with John Simmons assisting her as the Deputy Co-Ordinator and her mentor.
– Nina Stewart (Co-Ordinator): 07876 650906
– John Simmons (Deputy Co-Ordinator): 07483 825298
Note to Editors: The Southend Churches Winter Night Shelters project is a partnership between Love Southend, HARP, Southend-on-Sea Borough Council and, in normal times, the seven host churches.