SOUTHEND is being swamped by rough sleepers from other parts of Essex because they receive so much help from the borough’s charities, a councillor has revealed.

While we have large numbers of residents willing to give help to those in need, some neighbouring councils are said to be taking advantage of this generosity and fuelling a growing problem for the town.

Ann Holland, councillor responsible for culture, tourism and the economy, said other local authorities in the county are supplying the homeless with subsidised train tickets to come to Southend to be helped by the town’s many charities and volunteers.

However, she would not specify whether Essex, Castle Point, Basildon or Thurrock were involved.

She said: “We have quite a lot of people assisting rough sleepers and giving them help with food and clothing.

"I was informed by officers at a recent policing meeting that they are being given subsidised tickets to come here. Other Essex authorities give them tickets and are telling them to come to Southend because people from faith groups do such a lot for them.”

Ms Holland added: “Officers are looking into it at the moment and are going to have word with them about it so I would rather not reveal which authorities are doing this but it is being investigated.

"We want to be compassionate over what’s going on but we are getting more people coming here and that’s adding to the problem. We’ve got to have a balance.”

Speaking about the rising numbers of homeless people congregating in Southend High Street, Mrs Holland said: “We are working with Harp and the night shelters and street pastors. We are having meetings about it and I know the police are making it a priority.”

This comes in addition to bids by London authorities to offload housing benefit tenants onto Southend.

The Echo has previously revealed some London Boroughs like Tower Hamlets have signed deals with landlords in Southend, Thurrock and Basildon, to take homeless people from the capital.

This because of skyrocketing London rents but many of those end up homeless in those areas after failing to keep up payments on properties.

As a consequence they become the responsibility of Southend Council. Now it would seem many are heading to Southend without any assurance of housing – just welfare help from charities.

Martin Terry, Independent councillor for Thorpe ward has criticised other councils who add to Southend’s problems.

He has also called for a halt to further help for the homeless.

He said: “I think we have got to stop any further development of these things.

"I know people are very well meaning and want to sustain help for the homeless, but the council has over night shelters in the winter and the churches open their winter night shelters.

"If rough sleepers are being fed and and clothed it encourages them to sleep rough. If they are fed and watered they can survive.

"It’s not very nice but a lot of people are happy to carry on sleeping rough if they know they have got supplies but I’m not criticising people who want to help.”

Mr Terry added: “I’m angry other towns in Essex are doing this and also London boroughs who continue to give people money for one night’s accommodation and a one way ticket to Southend.

“This impacts on social care. They are offloading their problems on us.”