WITH homelessness in Southend reaching a worrying level, several organisations are working tirelessly to ease the pain of as many rough sleepers as possible.

During the festive season, rough sleepers are more vulnerable than ever as sub-zero temperatures begin to take effect.

Organisations such as Streets Ahead and One Love soup kitchen provide shelter and hot meals for rough sleepers, and others – including homeless charity, Harp - which works as an outreach service to help Southend’s homeless with a variety of issues, from housing, to health.

But many groups find themselves stretched during the Christmas period.

They heavily rely on help and support from communities, as well as donations, to continue to provide such vital services.

Stephen Mansfield, fundraising and communications manager at Harp, said: “It’s awful to think that people will spend Christmas Day on the streets, but heartening to see the community pull together to help vulnerable people at this time of year.

“At Harp, we ramp up our efforts over the festive period to make sure that as many people as possible are able to get help and support to move away from homelessness.

“By the end of the Christmas period we’ll have given out 266 Christmas presents to our service users and will have served 218 Christmas dinners, all of which is only possible thanks to the amazing support we get from the community.”

North Road Burial Ground, 139 North Rd, <a href=Westcliff.Rough sleepers have been sleeping in North Road cemetery.."> North Road Burial Ground, 139 North Rd, Westcliff.Rough sleepers have been sleeping in North Road cemetery..

Four kind-hearted youngsters did their bit to help by walking up and down Southend High Street in the cold to hand out essential supplies to the homeless.

Brother and sister, Maisie and Taylor Endell, 12, and 16, came up with the idea four years ago, along with friends, siblings Ella and Louie Johnson, 12, and 15.

Every year, accompanied by their mums and outreach worker Melanie Endell the group set off for the streets of Southend, delivering rucksacks with toiletries, snacks, hats and scarves.

Melanie said: “My two and jenny’s two came up with the idea as they really wanted to help.

“We used to hand out sandwiches a couple of times a year and then Easter eggs at Easter, which was all very well received, so we decided a few years ago to start handing out the rucksacks for Christmas.”

The 42-year-old added: “The people are all so grateful and only take what they need.

“My son said after: ‘We are richer than we think’, Jenny and I are really proud of them all.”

However, it’s not just rough sleepers suffering. Thousands of children and their families will spend Christmas in temporary accommodation.

Much of that issue comes from financial crises, with thousands of people appearing to have been affected by the recent Universal Credit system.

National housing charity, Shelter, has called on the public to support its urgent Christmas appeal.

Temporary accommodation often sees a family in a single room, sharing bathrooms and kitchens with other families.

The charity said the impacts of homelessness on children and young people can be extreme and extensive and can lead to constant insecurity and disruption to families’ daily lives.

Homelessness can also have an effect on children and young people’s mental health and education.

Greg Beales, director at Shelter said: “No child should be homeless. But for the generation growing up in the housing crisis, this is the grim reality for many.

“The number of children hidden away in hostels and B&Bs is enough to make anyone’s heart sink. These are not places for children.

“We hear about cold, damp – even rats.

“Young children are sharing beds with multiple family members, trying to play in dirty public corridors, and having to leave their block in the middle of the night to use the bathroom.

“Over the last five years, hundreds of thousands of children have known what it’s like to be homeless. The impact on these young people cannot be overstated.

“It doesn’t have to be this way. If we act now, we can change tomorrow to make sure every child has somewhere they can call home.”

Imogen Farhan, Reform researcher,said: “Public services need to work together to tackle the root causes of what makes a person homeless, including substance abuse and mental health problems.

“Contrary to Theresa May’s statement yesterday, there is more to tackling homelessness than just building more houses.”

If you would like to do you bit to help this Christmas, you can make a cash donation or items of your choice to either one of the homeless charities.

If residents see any rough sleepers on the street and are concerned, they are encouraged to contact Street Link or call Harp for to find out what services are being provided for the homeless this Christmas.