A DRUG addict and a woman with mental health problems are among homeless people camping in Southend Cliff Gardens.

Nearby residents have complained about a “shanty town” of more than 15 people on the cliffs overlooking the estuary.

Southend Council, homelessness charities and support services insist help is available to get them into housing.

The Echo went down and spoke to the campers.

We found six people living in two separate makeshift camps near the war memorial off Clifftown Parade.

Neighbours claimed they were Romanian, but all but two the Echo found were British. A Ukrainian man with two daughters in their twenties had recently moved on.

Most had been camping for several months, but one couple had been sleeping rough for two years.

The discovery comes less than a week after the Echo revealed homeless people were camping on Southend beach.

Angela Ganesh, 36, and her boyfriend Lee Wade, 42, who have been camping at the spot with their eight-year-old staffie, Monty, for two months, agreed to be identified.

Angela said: “For the first couple of weeks it wasn’t too bad. The weather has been good, but when you want to wash and brush your teeth you have to pack a night bag and go to Harp.

“You have to be on your guard 24 hours a day.

“I can’t see any way out. I don’t know what they want us to do.”

In another camp was a 55-year-old man who has been on the cliffs since March.

He claimed came out of prison for a crime he never committed.

The father, who was neatly dressed with a clean camp, asked not to be named.

He said: “I don’t want to be here, but where am I meant to go?

“I don’t want to live like this.

I haven’t put myself into this position, I have been put like this.”

Echo: Another campsite on the cliffsAnother campsite on the cliffs


SOUTHEND Council has received a "handful" of complaints about the homeless camp.

The campers are frightened after hearing rumours people are planning a protest to demand action from the council.

One irate resident, Patsy Tomlinson, said: “As a local resident who pays her taxes I’m truly disgusted the council will not do anything about this problem.

“They continue to plant lovely flowers near the war memorial, but now we have a little shanty town growing there.

“The threatening behaviour of the people living there, where there is no sanitation so they must use the ground, is truly appalling.”

But street cleaner Paul Woodman, of contractors ISS, denied the vagrants were causing a problem.

He said: “There are two over there that have been there for a long time, at least a few months.

“I’ve seen them, but haven’t had a problems with them.

“They don’t make much rubbish and leave it in a black sack and put it out for me.”

Echo: Homeless people living on Southend beachHomeless people living on Southend beach


HOMELESS people may be forced to leave the cliffs.

Southend Council, which is responsible for the cliff gardens, is considering moving the campers on so the parkland is free for visitors to use.

The authority admits housing is in short supply but it, along with homelessness charities, insist accommodation is available.

David Norman, Southend councillor responsible for housing, said: “It is vitally important to remember there is no magic solution to ending rough sleeping, or everyone would have done it by now.

“Every person needs to be dealt with individually and present their own challenges. Anybody working with this group knows breaking the cycle of homelessness for an entrenched rough sleeper can be a slow process, and is far from as simple as just giving them the keys to a flat.

“It can take several months, if not years, to even reach the point where the person trusts you enough to accept support.

“They will then typically need the help and support of a number of agencies such as mental health, substance abuse and other support to help them in to a tenancy, and even then it may not be successful.”

To qualify for help a homeless applicant must have a priority need that makes them vulnerable, such as serious mental health problems or a dependent child. They must also have lived in Southend for the previous three years.

The council has worked with church group Love Southend and homeless charity Harp to open churches up as extra night shelters through the winter.

Outreach workers from charity St Mungo’s Broadway and housing association Family Mosaic meet rough sleepers.

Harp, which opened a new £2.3million day centre and night shelter in York Road, Southend, last year, helps homeless people access help as well as providing accommodation.

Most homeless people qualify for welfare payments, such as jobseekers’ allowance.

Gary Turner, service operations manager for the charity, said: “Our team can unravel problems and put together an action plan to get money for a deposit. If anyone is in that situation, please come to talk to my specialist team.

“We won’t shut the door. We will spend the time to unravel it.”

Concerned residents can get help to rough sleeper by reporting them to St Mungo’s Broadway at streetlink.org.uk or by calling 0300 5000914.