VOLUNTEERS at a help centre for homeless people will be working tirelessly to make sure some of the most vulnerable members in our communities are not left out in the cold this Christmas.

Workers at the Homeless Action Resource Project in Southend will make sure nearly 100 rough sleepers get a turkey dinner and such presents as new scarves and hats, at the centre on December 21.

It will all be part of the service from an organisation which helps more than 2,000 people every year to find a home.

Spokesman Steven Colyer said: “We are basically the last hope hotel for our clients. We have a bunch of incredibly conscientious people here who work tirelessly to change the lives of people who have nowhere else to go.”

He added: “We are led by Doreen Pujol, who is like a mother hen here. Last year she gave up her Christmas Day to help a client move. That is typical of her and of the sacrifice our staff make.”

The charity, which was set up in 2002, runs a day centre in Valkyrie Road, Westcliff, a night shelter in York Road, Southend, and medium-stay hospices offering specialist care in Ceylon Road and Genesta Road, Westcliff.

The charity’s services are made possible by a team of 14 staff and ten volunteers who work to provide the only homeless centre in the whole of south Essex.

Lisa Howard, 39, a cleaner, and mum-of-one from Leigh, is one of Harp’s volunteers.

She said: “I started here about four months ago. My son is a bit older now so I decided I wanted to do something that would make a difference to people’s lives. It is something which gives me a lot of satisfaction and made me realise I now want a future in social work.”

Neal McArdle, 26, a resettlement team leader who has worked for Harp for three years, said: “I work with people on the night shelter and try to find them accommodation. We try to target people’s specific needs so they have a better chance of keeping their homes once they find permanent accommodation.”

Matt Pettitt, 36, a recovering heroin addict, says the charity has completely transformed his life.

The former Billericay schoolboy has spent the past ten years in and out of prison while he shoplifted to fund his drug habit.

He said: “I spent last Christmas in Belmarsh prison. The jail was the only thing I had to look forward to every Christmas. I was basically in a vicious circle, stealing to pay for drugs. I could not see a way out. I had lost contact with my family and it was all pretty depressing. Then the prison service put me on to Harp, and in June this year I joined their programme.

“I have since come off heroin and been working at Harp’s shop on Thursdays. It has really helped me to rebuild my confidence.

“This year I will spend Christmas with my family, which didn’t seem possible at one stage. It does feel like I’ve been given a second chance by the angels who work here and take the time to give people like me hope for the future.”