6:00am Friday 1st November 2013
By Christine Sexton
OTHER authorities have pledged their support to the police operation and are promising to be just as tough on the homeless.
The crackdown has been launched just a week after the Echo highlighted the concerns churches had with an increased number of homeless people congregating in their churchyards.
They blamed the homeless for causing mess and upsetting residents with one church, St Alban the Martyr in Westcliff, planning to put up gates to keep them out.
The authorities said every assistance will be offered to those who fall on hard times, but promised action would be taken.
Tony Cox, Southend councillor responsible for public protection, waste and transport, said: "We’ve seen an increase in reports of street begging and homelessness across the borough, and alongside our colleagues in partner agencies including Essex Police, HARP, Family Mosaic and SBC Housing, we’re working collectively to assist these individuals through a triple track approach of engagement and rehabilitation under the Operation Zest umbrella.
“However, when individuals fail to engage or continue causing alarm and distress to the wider public, we will in some circumstances, and as a last resort, pursue an antisocial behaviour order.”
The homeless often take refuge from the elements under the railway bridge in the High Street and in shop doorways and businesses in the town centre welcome the initiative.
Dawn Jeakings, chairman of the Southend Business Improvement District, said: “There are definitely some homeless people which are known to frequent the area on a regular basis.
“We are fully in support of any project the police set up, and we liaise with police on a regular basis about such things.
“In any town there can be an issue with homelessness, and Southend is no different to any other town.”
Gary Chandler, operations manager for HARP, said: “If it is going to help people it’s a good idea.
“It is a multi-agency approach to divert people the services. We are involved and it appears to be working. Anything we can do to help people off the streets is a good thing.”
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