A NEW mission to help the homelessness and banish street drinking has been launched in Southend High Street.

Southend’s Business Improvement District (BID) has teamed up with Southend Council and the town’s community policing team to tackle the problems.

Winter night shelters organised by Southend churches have now come to an end, but the unusually harsh spring weather has meant extra difficulties for the homeless.

Southend BID, which has more than 300 town centre businesses signed up, has been looking at ways to extend help to rough sleepers, many of whom descend on the town from other areas, particularly London boroughs.

A report on the issue from BID said: “A number of street patrols took place.

“It was decided that these would continue in the absence of the winter night shelters.

“We’re now looking into funding for this to be permanent.

“Certain individuals are no longer active on the streets or have moved on.

“Those coming from other areas means beginning the process again and a rise in numbers.”

Emma Cooney, Southend Council’s director of regeneration and business development, has requested a “Critical Town Task Group” to take place within the next couple of weeks.

She said: “The council regularly meets with its key partners such as the BID and police to discuss the issues and challenges that the High Street currently faces relating to antisocial behaviour, street begging and homelessness.

“A separate Town Task Group also meets to look at day to day operational town centre issues such as cleansing, public realm, signage and access.”

Ms Cooney added: “Following discussions with partners a new and more strategic conversation about the town centre is underway.

“It will pick up the wider ranging issues and opportunities it is facing now as well as planning for the future.

“The group will also start to consider how we can work with our partners and the local community to deliver an improved town centre experience for residents, businesses and visitors.”

Southend District Commander, Det Chief Insp Neil Pudney, said: “We’ve had meetings with the council over homelessness situation. For a lot of people on the streets it’s a lifestyle choice and not actual homelessness.

“The Government is introducing a new Homelessness Reduction Act in October so we will be helping to implement that and looking at how best we can deal with the situation in Southend.”

Southend BID also said it will be creating a “multi-agency educational website to allow users to donate online as opposed to giving cash directly to street community”.