CHURCHES across Southend are opening their doors to rough sleepers over the winter but are in urgent need of an extra venue to offer the shelter seven-days-a-week.

The annual winter shelter scheme began on Monday adding around 20 extra sleeping spaces for rough sleepers but this year a shortage of venues means the extra beds may not be available all the time.

Churches across the town share the responsibility of providing beds and hot meals by opening their doors for one night a week and event night has been catered for except for Tuesday. It marks the first time in eight years that there has been a shortage in venues and the council says “every effort” is going in to find an extra location.

John Simmons, co-ordinator of the Southend Churches Winter Night Shelter scheme said they had hoped to launch the shelters with all seven nights covered but that hasn’t been possible.

He said: “We need a venue for Tuesday night and all our approaches have drawn a blank so far. This is our ninth season and the only other time we’ve not been able to open all seven days was in our first year – I’ve contacted every church in Southend.”

Mr Simmons appealed for anyone with a space with two rooms, one large and one small, and space for around 20 people to sleep to come forward as it could “save lives”. He has now begun approaching empty shops while the council assesses whether then can use any of their buildings.

He added: “The shelters are very important, and we are fairly certain that we have saved lived lives by getting people indoors rather than on the streets.”

The shelters are run in partnership between Southend Council, Love Southend, Southend’s Churches and homeless charity Harp.

Simon Leftley, deputy chief executive at Southend Council, said: “We are still working hard and doing all we can to find a location for Tuesday nights. No-one wants to see anyone sleeping outside during the cold winter months. We have our fantastic volunteers we just need a suitable place.”

Last year, 156 people were given a place to sleep for at least one night.

To offer an extra venue for the scheme, email Nina on