SOUTHEND could become the first place in Britain to install lockers for rough sleepers to store their belongings.

The project, headed by Quiller Hawkins of Solidarity Lockers UK, has taken inspiration from a similar scheme in Lisbon. ACA Portugal, which is behind the yellow metal cabinets, is now working in partnership with Mr Hawkins.

He came up with the idea after speaking to a homeless person who had their guitar stolen.

The lockers, which could soon be installed in Southend town centre, will allow people who are homeless to store their belongings safely - reducing the risk of them being robbed and allowing them to own more clothes than they can carry.

The lockers will also have an address, as they come equipped with a letter box - meaning that the person using it can register with the NHS and get allocated a National Insurance number.

Mr Hawkins believes the locker system is about “giving people responsibility” and helping them get a step up in life.

He said: “They can do night classes at university, they can have a locker to put their nice clothes in, they can feel good and go out and make friends.

“They don’t have to take their tent to a job interview”.

Mr Hawkins is drawing up plans for the project alongside Mark Flewitt, Tory councillor for housing, planning and sustainability.

Mr Flewitt said: “I am optimistic that any measure, soft or otherwise, if it starts giving people some dignity it will encourage people to try harder and, more importantly, the authorities to try harder.

“If we help one or two people then it could make a huge difference to their lives, as they will feel like they are being paid attention to.”

While the lockers could become a permanent fixture, they will only be used as a temporary solution for individuals.

The plan is to have six to twelve lockers placed around Southend, which will be assigned to one person at a time. They will be transferred to another individual once the previous tenant has been homed.

It is proposed that the lockers are located outside Southend police station, in Victoria Avenue.

Mr Flewitt told the Echo he has not yet formally taken the idea to Southend Council as he and Mr Hawkins believe it is best to publicise the idea first and gauge reaction from the community.

If the scheme is implemented, the authority will become the first in the country to do so.

Mr Hawkins admits that the project is “still very much in its infancy”.

He said: “I guess I’m a realist. You get too excited about something and it might not be right.

“I’d love for it to happen, but it needs to happen in a way which is right for everybody.

“We want to put it out there and see what the response is.”