A HOMELESS shelter has opened without permission.

Off The Streets defended the decision to open first and seek permission later because of the growing problem across the borough.

Community group Off The Streets opened the new shelter at 505 London Road, Westcliff last month.

On September 13 the group submitted a change of use planning application with Southend Council.

The application was validated – meaning it was acknowledged – on October 1.

A decision on whether to grant the change of use has not yet been made.

Group founder Kirsty Louise, 29, from Westcliff said it has been a success so far with about six people rehomed in shared housing since they set up the shelter.

She said: “We took the decision to open before the application was granted to help get people off the streets, and give them the help they need.

“We took advice from the council, legal advice and also advice from architects.

“We knew we would be in breach but took the risk to help people.

“If the application is refused we will appeal against the decision.

“To think we have helped rehome so many people in about six weeks is just amazing and really shows how it works.

“We have spoken to neighbours and people on the community and had have some objections but most people have been fine with it.

“The people we are helping want to give back to the community by taking on different jobs such as litter picking.”

The group received the keys in April having decided to leave a shelter in Southchurch earlier this year following complaints from residents.

Councillor James Courtenay, deputy leader of Southend Council, said: “We are aware of the good work Off The Streets does in assisting our homeless population and will always try to support charitable and community groups.

“We can confirm we have now received a retrospective planning application for the building to be used in the way Off The Streets is currently doing. The decision as to whether or not to grant planning permission will be taken at a later date.” Residents can express their views by visiting southend.gov.uk/planning using reference 18/01728/FUL.” A decision will be made later this year.