COUNCILS across southern Essex have come together to tackle homelessness across the region and the programme was launched at the Civic Offices in Grays on Monday (27 October).
Cllr Lynn Worrall, Thurrock Council’s portfolio holder for housing, was there for the launch and she said: “That homelessness is a hidden issue might be a clichÃ©, but it’s a clichÃ© for a reason – it’s true.
“Single people facing homelessness are often ashamed or in denial until the last possible moment; single people facing homelessness often don’t know where to turn or who to ask for help; and single people facing homelessness feel society has forgotten them.
“We’re here to put that right.”
She explained Thurrock is one of nine south Essex authorities working together to create a new service dedicated to providing the help and assistance that is needed for single homeless people.
The South Essex Homelessness Assessment and Reconnection Team is a new service to help homeless people sleeping rough across the region..
Cllr Worrall said: “The nine councils are now working with homelessness organisation St Mungo’s Broadway to provide outreach and a No Second Night Out service to people sleeping rough.
“Funding from the Department for Communities and Local Government means this costs council tax payers nothing.
“The service will be more proactive and the No Second Night Out mantra means the new scheme will provide swift help to anyone new to sleeping rough, helping them off the streets and into accommodation.”
She added: “It also includes a more traditional outreach service aimed at those who may have slept rough on and off for some time because of a range of complicated factors.
“Now we have decades of experience to help us and local people in trouble.
“Although St Mungo’s Broadway was formed in April this year – it is a merger of two well-established and respected homelessness charities, St Mungo’s and Broadway.
“St Mungo’s began helping people sleeping rough in the sixties, developing ground-breaking services including the first specialist project solely for mentally ill rough sleepers.
“Broadway goes back 12 years and its roots further still supporting homeless people for more than 20 years.
“I’m sure we will all learn from this great store of knowledge and experience over the coming months and years and improve the lives of some of our most vulnerable people.”
St Mungo’s Broadway Director of Outreach Services, Petra Salva said: "The starting point for our work is that rough sleeping is harmful and dangerous, and that no one should have to sleep rough in this day and age.
"We’ll be working with people to find out why they became homeless and to connect them with services to get them back on track, as needed, into housing, into health services and into work opportunities. We look forward to running this first service in the area, with local partners across the region."
If members of the public are concerned about anyone sleeping rough, they can contact the national 24 hour rough sleeping referral line StreetLink on 0300 500 0914 or online at www.streetlink.org.uk. This referral will then link with the South Essex service. People will also be referred in through Housing services direct to the St Mungo’s Broadway team.