A NEW £2.3million 24-hour homelessness centre will help eradicate rough sleeping from Southend in just four years, says a charity.
Harp hopes its new 18-bedroom night shelter and day centre, which has opened its doors after a decade of work, will help clear Southend’s streets of homeless people by 2018.
The 24-hour centre opened its doors yesterday as workmen put the finishing touches to a year-long conversion of the derelict former Darnley Hotel.
Every bedroom, each of which has an en suite bathroom, is already taken and the new centre will replace Harp’s day centre in Valkyrie Road, which will be sold, and a 16-bedroom hostel further up York Road, which is earmarked for more supported housing.
Gary Turner, service operations manager for the Southend charity, said: “Our aim is to eradicate rough sleeping by 2018.
“The new centre will play a big part, but the key is about working together.
“We have to have all the agencies working with us, with the best interests of the homeless person in mind.”
Residents, who have keys to access their rooms during the day, cook and eat together in the kitchen, lounge and dining room.
Southend Adult Community College offers courses in eviction prevention, employability and confidence building to help homeless people and those at risk of homelessness stabilise their lives in the day centre next door.
Day centre users can also take showers, have a meal in the canteen, socialise in a lounge or speak to some of the facility’s eight staff and five volunteers in private interview rooms.
Work will start on a new garden, with a vegetable patch and quiet seating areas, at the end of this month.
Mr Turner said: “We had cramped conditions. Privacy and confidentiality were pretty much non-existent.
“We have provided a building that gives people the dignity and respect they need as individuals.”
He said continued work with Southend Council, mental health agencies, the Citizens’ Advice Bureau and Southend Adult Community College would make the new facility a success.
Development manager Nicky Houston said: “It’s so exciting and so rewarding.
“The best thing has been everyone’s reaction, the staff, service users and stakeholders.
Everyone has been excited by it.”