Street Spirit started early 2014 when a small group of “lay people” who not having been much involved with homeless issues prior to that time observed there were a number of rough sleepers hanging round the town centre and wanted to respond practically and with compassion. Their response was to try to find out more about what was going on that gave rise to these situations and do what they could to help by way of small acts of kindness, such as giving out food, drink and other provisions, and simply encouraging those they met, to help rough sleepers survive on the streets. Through various publicity, such as reports in the local paper, use of social media and word of mouth through friends, this attracted others to join them and a group was set up to offer grass-roots support to those finding themselves homeless, whether they are sleeping rough on the streets of Southend, sofa-surfing or having been recently housed and in need of practical support.
The group is non-religious, non-political and comprises volunteers from all walks of life. From the early days, it was decided one of the more efficient ways to contact rough sleepers was by having a regular place to meet that operated like a soup kitchen. Clarence Road car park was seen as suitable (except in very bad weather) and has been used (with permission) ever since, operating from 8-10pm every Saturday night. Street Spirit offer time, friendship and (limited) advice to those who want it, and raise funds via putting on events, and accepting donations of money and of a material nature, in order to provide food, sleeping bags, clothing, toiletries and other essential items that might benefit those in need. Typically around 60 persons use Street Spirit services each week and it tries to ensure material needs are catered for. Priority is given to those sleeping rough, but anyone needing support and friendship is welcome to use its services.
While it has helped a significant number in other practical ways outside of these times, Street Spirit recognizes its limitations and the need to do more. It also recognizes there remain significant needs around the shortage of suitable affordable accommodation, support for those with needs such as around mental health and substance misuse and by way of making available meaningful activities. Through its active committee and extensive networks, it continuously reviews its operations, looking how to best use its limited resources. It welcomes the support of friends who wish to help and welcomes new volunteers who wish to join us. It values and tries to take on board constructive feedback, recognizing the complex nature of homelessness and the extent of human need. It recognizes there are other groups in the town that help rough sleepers and tries to work with them and complement what they do. There are several groups it has begun to cultivate closer ties with and will work with all and sundry to further its aims to bring its rough sleeper friends into a better place. It is not Street Spirit’s policy to comment on the activities of other groups and it is not a campaigning organization other than in its attempts at trying to help homeless people by whatever means it can and within its limitations.
Street Spirit currently do not have registered charity status. It has used the template “Small Charity Constitution” as recommended by the Charity Commission, and operate within their framework, but as its income is under £5,000 it is not legally obliged to register as a charity. However, it is registered as a Constituted Voluntary Group with SAVS and hold all the relevant paperwork. This enables it to apply legitimately for funding. Street Spirit is a non profit-making organization, consisting solely of volunteers, who freely make available their considerable time, expertise and resources. All donations it receives go directly towards supporting the homeless and/or vulnerable. It maintains auditable accounts and is accountable to its stakeholders, which include those who donate, those it works with and the people that it tries to serve. It can be contacted via its “Street Spirit Southend” Facebook page, which is regularly updated with latest information and it allows “friends” to comment. If you wish to know more, you may contact John Barber (chair) phone: 01702 616302, email: firstname.lastname@example.org