Band of angels to help the homeless

Southend Standard: Here to help - Rosie Barrett, Caroline Barrett and Fiona Dulake Here to help - Rosie Barrett, Caroline Barrett and Fiona Dulake

A TEAM of kind-hearted people who were moved by the plight of the homeless in Southend’s have got together to raise money to make their lives more bearable.

Caroline Barrett and her friend Rachel Howell, 22, from Rayleigh have a organised a Facebook group to raise funds to give homeless people some home comforts.

After a Saturday night out among those who have nowhere to lay their heads, but shop doorways and alleys, they vowed to take them blankets, pillows, hot drinks and companionship on a regular basis.

Caroline, 48, from Leigh said: “A few weeks ago a friend of mine Rachel set up the page and invited me to join. She was shocked and saddened by the number of homeless people unable to get into the local shelter, for one reason or another, and having to endure the awful weather conditions we’ve had lately.

“Her plan was for a group of us to go out into Southend High Street one Saturday night to speak to as many of them as we could, ask them what they needed and hopefully give out some warm clothes and blankets.”

Caroline added: “Four of us met up to do this. It was an extremely moving experience and, while their stories were shocking and upsetting, wewere humbled and impressed by their spirit, humour and dignity.

“A story which was repeated to us a number of times on that first night was that often they are physically and verbally abused, and what little they are given is stolen from them.”

The team which includes Caroline’s partner Clayton Stocker, 48, and Peter Hobbs, are appealing for donations of clothing, cushions and blankets from the public by searching Whose Streets? Our Streets!? on Facebook and they hope to attract more volunteers.

The Railway Hotel, Clifftown Road, Southend has agreed to be a collection point for people to drop off donations.

A fundraising nearly new sale will be held at the Railway on Sunday from 1pm to 5pm.

Entrance is 50p, and table hire is £5.

The group can be contacted via the facebook page or by calling 07988 740710.

Other aid is on hand for rough sleepers

About 18 people are believed to bed down on Southend’s streets each night – with another 20 offered shelter by churches.

Southend Council has a legal duty to house the “statutory homeless” and has 173 beds across the borough, run by its arms length management organisation, South Essex Homes.

But its 91 units, which include eight hostels as well as bedsits and shared houses, are only 60 per cent full as not all rough sleepers meet the strict criteria for eligibility.

A person must be eligible for public funds, which depends on their immigration status, have some local connection to the area, be able to prove they are unintentionally homeless and prove they are in priority need.

A household with priority need is a pregnant woman, a parent or guardian with dependent children, someone vulnerable as a result of old age, mental illness, handicap or physical disability or someone made homeless by an emergency, such as flood, fire or other disaster.

They could also be someone leaving care, prison or the armed forces or fleeing domestic violence.

Charities such as Harp and Southend YMCA, which provides sheltered accommodation for young people at risk of homelessness, and the Church Winter Night Shelter programme, which provides hot meals and a bed for 20 rough sleepers at a different Southend church each night during the winter, will step in to help people who fall through the net.

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