ONE man who works on the frontline fighting poverty in Southend is Simon Matthews.

Community pastor at Southend Vineyard, Simon runs the Storehouse project, which offers clothes, food parcels, tea, coffee and meals to people in need.

The project, based at the Coleman Street Community Centre, has seen the number of people turning up rocket from just 200 a year to 1,200 in 2009. And it is not just those sleeping rough who make use of its vital services.

Mr Matthews said: “Out of the 1,200 clients we have got, about 150 are single mums who come in for breakfast and food bags every week.

“There’s been a huge increase, but we don’t discriminate about who comes in and gets a food bag.

“And about 350 of that total are unofficially homeless.

“A high percentage have mental health issues or drug addictions.

“We also see victims of domestic violence, boys as well as women.”

Most of the money for the project comes from church donations plus voluntary sector grants from Southend Council.

In the past year, the number of food parcels given out has leapt from about 75 a month to between 250 and 300, and the number of volunteers has gone up from eight to more than 40.

As well as providing help with things like food and clothing, the Storehouse also works with groups which provide support to people in need.

Mr Matthews added: “If we didn’t feed these people, they wouldn’t starve, but they are poor in that they are extremely vulnerable.

“They have no support network, and are not engaging with the services they’re entitled to.

“Council leader, Nigel Holdcroft, came to visit us and he said we are stopping people from falling through the net, which highlights the great need for the service.

“But we do need a fund-raiser desperately.”

The project also wants more volunteers to come forward to help with fund-raising and helping out. If you can help, call Southend Vineyard on 01702 612900.