WORKERS at a new £2million homeless centre will have personal panic alarms to keep them safe.

The Bradbury Centre will open within weeks if Southend Council signs off a “security strategy” detailing how the Homeless Action Resource Project (Harp) will minimise risk to staff and volunteers at the 18-bed property in York Road, Southend.

Documents submitted to council planners by Harp show how a specialist electronic “personal attack” alarm system has been set up with receivers on all three floors and in the garden.

Southend Standard:

The Bradbury Centre

Workers would have hand-held or necklace-work alarms.

If a worker fears for their safety or needs help, firing the button will sound an alarm, with separate equipment flashing their location.

The council granted planning permission on condition a security system was approved before the centre opens. Harp chiefs downplayed the need for the system, saying attacks on staff by the homeless were rare.

Gill Garwood, chief executive, said: “Attacks are something that very rarely happen. Staff are trained to deal with it, and if it does happen, we will get the mental health services involved.

Southend Standard:

Gill Garwood

“No one is allowed on the premises if they have been drinking alcohol.

Panic alarms are standard good practice in hospitals and social services departments.”

She said the alarms were also to improve response times to concerns about residents, adding: “Sometimes you get someone who has not eaten for a few days. If they are in the garden and collapse, the worker would pull the necklace and another worker can come to their aid.”

However, she revealed the threat of break-ins was a concern. The centre will also have 27 CCTV cameras throughout communal areas, an intruder alarm system and front door entry system.

She said: “During construction, someone broke in and stripped out the boilers and pipes.

“We are looking to open at the beginning of March. It will be quite a logistical exercise, moving everything from the day centre in Valkyrie Road, Westcliff.”

Mrs Garwood thanked residents who had made the project happen by donating money. Funding also came from the Government and £150,000 from the Bradbury Trust, after which the centre will be named.

HARP hopes the Bradbury Centre will ultimately be available to homeless people at any time of the day.

Initially, it will not have the resources to check people in during the early hours, but this is an ambition of chief executive Gill Garwood, pictured. She said: “It is tragic we know how to end rough sleeping, but don’t have the resources.”

Harp has about 100 workers, 60 of them volunteers.

The current night shelter in York Road has to move people out at 9am as the day centre in Valkyrie Road does not have rooms.

At the Bradbury Centre, occupants will have access to a room 24 hours-a-day, once accepted.

The day centre is likely to be sold. The future of the 14-bed night shelter is less certain, but it may undergo improvements. In November, Harp got permission to turn the former Vancouver House care home, in Hastings Road, Southend, into a “supported living” hostel with 11 bedrooms. It is hoped people could progress from the Bradbury Centre to this more long-term accommodation, before moving into private accommodation.

Once the hostel opens, Harp believes it could almost eradicate homelessness, currently at around 15 to 20 people per night, in the borough.