THE push to get rough sleepers off the streets of Southend during the lockdown may prompt some to turn their lives around.

To escape the threat of the coronavirus pandemic, homeless people have been given rooms in hotels and B&Bs.

An army of volunteers, who have also been handing out meals over the last four weeks, hope this work will continue long after lockdown has ended, saying people have been so thankful for what is being done.

Vince Godwin, 39, was helped off the street earlier in the year by council street rangers.

He said staying in a hotel felt like being on holiday and the experience could persuade others to stay off the streets.

He said: “Community safety officers helped me and a friend. When I was put in a hotel it felt like I was on holiday, like I was in a bubble but I stayed off the street and now I’m helping others stay housed.

“Sometimes it’s like putting a cat in a box. You have to coax them in there sometimes and it doesn’t always work out.

“I know five lads that were put in a hotel and they are doing well. I think they will stay off the streets.

“They are all getting on and are well happy. The thing is this shows that no one needs to be homeless ever again.”

Mr Godwin, who suffered with anxiety added: “I have been going round town helping the St Vincent de Paul charity to find rough sleepers on benches and car parks. I think at the beginning the council really messed up the numbers. They thought there were 32 rough sleepers but they didn’t look in the right places. It turned out to be more than three times that but the council have done their best.”

Tina Middleton, 51, was sleeping in a tent along Prittlewell Brook when lockdown happened, and only ventured out for food.

She said: “We knew what was happening with coronavirus and we were spending all our time in the tent.

“Then we went for breakfast and were told we had a hotel room booked and it was amazing. We didn’t go back to the tent. We left all our stuff there and went straight to the hotel. I can’t tell you how fantastic it has been.”

Tina is housed with her partner, and both of them are receiving ongoing support from STARS for alcohol dependency.

She added: “The support has been fantastic, not just from the council and local charities, but as we both have underlying health conditions, our GPs have also been calling us on a weekly basis to make sure we’re okay.”

Council workers and volunteers who have housed and fed more than 100 over the last for weeks are now looking at ways to carry on the good work.

Daniel Cauchi, from St Vincent de Paul-based St Helen’s Church, Westcliff, and in Short Street, Southend, has been organising the delivery of food under strict safety guidelines.

He said: “We’ve been producing up to 140 meals a day for a delivery service to feed all the homeless which the council has put up in B&Bs and now we’re getting help from One Love Southend for the knock and drop service. We also drop off dry food parcels at the Short Street shelter.

“We’re trying to work with the council to carry on. People have been so thankful for what we’ve done.”

A hotel manager, who did not want to be identified, explained how he felt there was a duty to the community to provide accommodation for rough sleepers at a discounted rate. He said: “The council contacted us and asked if we would be willing to accommodate rough sleepers and we wanted to help. Initially it was a little bit awkward as we tried to explain social distancing and the restrictions of lockdown. Now things have settled, speaking to our guests and explaining the importance of social distancing, things are better.”