Date: September 2019
Homelessness is a widely talked-about and controversial topic in Southend, particularly rough sleeping, which is the most visible end of the homeless spectrum. However, it is not just about people sleeping on the streets. It all begins with addressing the causes of homelessness in the first place.
This is why HARP supports people who are at risk of homelessness, as well as those who are already rough sleeping and want to get off the streets.
HARP has been working with homeless people in Southend for over 15 years, growing from a day centre and night shelter, to a full service operating over 200 beds each night, an active day centre offering hot breakfasts and support and advice, and outreach workers who go out onto the streets to speak to homeless people.
HARP’s accommodation caters for people at different stages of their homelessness journey. Our goal is to help people move through the different types of housing and levels of support until they are ready to live independently.
People often ask what causes homelessness, and it’s easy to make assumptions that there are drugs or alcohol involved, but the reasons for homelessness are as unique as the individuals who come to us for help.
They can include relationship breakdowns, health problems leading to being unable to work and pay the rent or mortgage, or another reason for loss of work or income. The thing many homeless people have in common is the lack of a support network. Many of us have family or friends who would help out in times of need, but not everyone has this kind of support available to them.
Although not every homeless person has an addiction or mental health issue, these can go hand-in-hand, creating a complex and vicious cycle.
As Lindsey*, a former HARP service-user who became homeless after a violent attack left her with post-traumatic symptoms, said: “Living on the street was making the symptoms of my psychosis worse because it was triggered by the trauma of my attack, which took place at night. Sleeping outside at night brought it all back.
"Eventually the council became aware of my situation and referred me to HARP, where I got accommodation. The mental health team would come and see me there, as well as the clinical nurse. I started having counselling again, and my key worker was helping me and signposting me to different resources.”
At HARP we treat everyone as an individual and help them to access the support they need to get – and stay - off the streets or to avoid becoming homeless in the first place.
HARP’s team are also able to regularly sit at the table with Southend-on-Sea Borough Council and other agencies to make sure that all parties are aware of the services available. That makes it easy for them to refer homeless people to the help and support they really need.
HARP also regularly refers to organisations like STARS (Southend Treatment And Recovery Service), mental health organisations, and to other shelters or housing organisations if we don’t have space or if they are better suited to people’s needs.
Most people want to know if they should give money to a homeless person. That’s completely your choice, but in HARP’s experience what people need is real change, not loose change. Showing care and compassion to those in crisis is a wonderful thing to do; but please be careful and remember that not everyone that asks for money is homeless, and not everyone that is homeless is out on the streets asking for money.
If you do want to give money to support homeless people, it’s easy to make a donation to HARP through our website, either as a one-off or on a regular basis. You can be sure that your money will be going towards supporting vital, life-saving services in Southend.
If you speak to someone who is sleeping rough, you can always ask if they’ve been to HARP’s Bradbury Day Centre on York Road, which is open Monday to Friday. Rough sleepers can come along from 9am - 1pm, and those at risk of homelessness or worried about their housing situation are welcome between 1pm and 4pm.
And if you’re concerned about someone who you think is sleeping rough, you can use the StreetLink app or website to report the location where you’ve seen them. StreetLink then send the details to organisations like HARP so that our outreach workers can find them and offer support.
For more ways in which you can support homeless people in Southend, visit
*Name changed for privacy reasons