Love Southend are often asked what happened to the Love Southend Churches Winter Night Shelters that helped provide a place to sleep and an evening meal for Southend-on-Sea’s rough sleepers at partner churches across the borough during the winter months from December to March each year.
Back in February 2021 a new befriending scheme designed to help former rough sleepers successfully adapt to life in their new homes was launched by Love Southend Churches Community Support and Southend-on-Sea Borough Council.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic and Government changes to emergency communal-style overnight shelters, the former Love Southend Churches Winter Night Shelters renamed itself Love Southend Churches Community Support (SCCS) and volunteers are now providing floating support to those recently housed.
The SCCS Befriending Service which launched on Valentine’s Day, 14 February 2021 and offers companionship and the teaching of basic practical skills, which are useful when living independently.
Nina Stewart, Love Southend SCCS manager said: “Staying connected and supporting the homeless who have recently been housed is more important than ever during these uncertain times. With people being asked to stay at home due to Covid-19, isolation and loneliness is a worry for most people. But for those just starting out, it brings additional worries and stress.
“This scheme which has now been running almost 10 months, aims to help vulnerable people navigate this thing called ‘life’ – treating everyone as individuals and opening doors to help them feel empowered. Our volunteers are caring and compassionate people who want to help people realise their full potential and assist them to participate in activities in the community in the same way that everyone else does.”
The befrienders contact each client weekly, typically for a one-hour session and work with them on a one-to-one basis, doing activities of the client’s choice. Most of the befrienders also work elsewhere and undertake befriending in their spare time.
Cllr Ian Gilbert, leader of the council with a responsibility for housing, said: “We reacted really quickly when it came to housing rough sleepers during the first lockdown in March 2020. The challenge since has been making sure the right support is in place to transform a temporary living situation into a more permanent one.
“I am grateful that the Love Southend Churches Community Support has been able to adapt to provide this befriending scheme. I believe it will truly make a difference to former rough sleepers.”