THE cost of living crisis is already claiming the lives of the poorest people in Southend, with foodbank bosses revealing five users have died in the last two weeks.

Bosses at Southend Storehouse foodbank are warning there will be a drastic spike in the number of people dying in poverty as the price of food, fuel and electricity soars.

It comes as research by Loughborough University estimates 235 people in Southend died in 2019 having experienced poverty in the last year of their life – around 13 per cent of the total number of deaths in the area.

Nicky Williamson, 52, manager of Southend Storehouse foodbank in Coleman Street, Southend, said: “I am not surprised by these figures.

"We have lost five people in the last two weeks.

"I think it will go up and it could go up drastically.

“I think people will especially suffer badly with poor mental health and I think we could see a rise in people feeling forced to take their own life.

“The numbers of people we are seeing is rising and people are faced with choosing between heating and electric and feeding their family."

She added: “I think it’s down to the rise in the cost of living and how wages and benefits are not increasing enough and people are really struggling financially.

"We are seeing people who are especially poverty stricken.

“Sometimes we see about 145 people in one day coming through our doors door for help.”

She is calling for minimum wages to be increased to help many people afford the cost of living a little more.

Bosses at Southend’s top homeless charity, Harp, are bracing themselves for a surge in the number of people using their services.

Jackie Bliss, chief executive of Harp, said: “It is truly shocking that in 2022 so many people nationally and in Southend die having experienced poverty in the last year of their lives.

“Worryingly, due to the work we do supporting people affected by homelessness in Southend, we are braced for an increase in the number of people requiring our services, and therefore experiencing poverty more generally, as the cost of living crisis continues to squeeze the most vulnerable people in society.”

Other homeless charities are warning about the serious impact on other parts of people's health.

Kirsty Fields, 32, and founder and manager of Off The Streets said: “It’s having a massive impact on people’s mental health and we are getting calls with people saying that.

“They also can’t see anyway of improving their mental health or how they can start to live a normal life again.”