CARING for the homeless extends to more than just a bed for the night, with Southend’s dedicated homeless charity committed to long term resolutions.

Harp, which is currently running winter night shelters in churches in conjunction with Southend Council and Love Southend, is doing its best to cut homelessness in the borough, and have now revealed over the course of 2019, a total of 558 new people used their services.

Of these 558, 216 were sleeping rough, and the winter night shelters – which run until March 29 – are a short term fix to getting people off the streets.

Indeed they are only the first step in helping get homeless people back on their feet.

Sara Fox, fundraising organiser at Harp, explained the next steps the charity take.

She said: “From the night shelters we can then offer them one of our 208 rooms, where they can stay independently.

“This could be for a varied amount of time. We have a team that offers great support to those living there, 24 hours a day. This could be just having a chat, or making sure they get to one of their appointments.”

Ms Fox also pointed to the final step that Harp can take in supporting those in need.

She added: “If they’re ready, we can help them move into fully independent leaving, away from our support.

“This can be a challenge. One lady stayed at one of our rooms for 18 months because she couldn’t’ find anywhere suitable for her and her three children. We have to make sure they’re moving to a place that they can afford.

“We housed 432 people into Harp accommodation across the year, and people moved on from Harp to live independently on 95 occasions.”

There are also emergency beds available at their centre in York Road, where those in need should go if they wish to attend one of the winter night shelters.

The fundraising organiser added: “We treat everyone has individuals. Where we refer them to depends on what their needs are.

“Some 213 out of the 558 were sofa surfing and 122 were at risk of losing their accommodation.

“We support everyone on a individual basis.

“There’s constantly people moving through our system. If they end up at the first step again, we offer the same support again.

“Where they end up is a combination of the support we offer and their willingness to improve their situation.”

Ian Gilbert, leader of Southend Council, praised the charity for their hard work, and spoke of the strong partnership that the council have with them.

He said: “Harp do some tremendous work. We’re so grateful for all that they do.

“We will continue working with them to tackle homelessness. We are trying our best.”

The leader also described what the council is doing independently to help the homeless, adding: “There are many different elements to being homeless.

“Every single person has their own problems that we can help solve. We need affordable housing. It must be genuinely affordable.

“We’re acquiring properties through right-to-buy and capital receipts and we’ve also got a pipeline of our own properties which we’re looking to build.”