The fact Southend does more than many local authorities when it comes to helping the homeless is evidenced by the fact some of these send their homeless to Southend (discussed in my earlier blog).
On my Facebook feed this morning is one titled: “Our Southend Homelessness petition has now reached 12,000 signatures, and the council has responded” and continues: “Less than a week ago, we started a petition to try and encourage the local authority to open up disused retail units in Southend Town Centre for rough sleepers during the cold winter months.” I understand the petition is shortly to be submitted to Council but the opportunity to sign is still open as I write (see here). I have signed.
Today is a big day for me as we put on a fund raising meal for one of the seven church winter night shelters about to run throughout the winter (see here). The idea is to provide temporary overnight accommodation to some of Southend’s increasing homeless population during the winter months, knowing full well we will not be able to help everyone, for a variety of reasons. Besides being able to accommodate only 20 guests, there are some who do not or can not engage with the scheme, sometimes because of lifestyle issues which volunteer run shelters are not equipped to deal with.
I am not involved in the petition other than signing it and letting people know. As for the Council and any other with an interest in homelessness, I take a view to avoid criticism as far as I can and work with what is out there in order to achieve the best result. Any reasonable person cannot help but be disturbed by the thought that there are empty buildings when outside them are people sleeping and susceptible to the elements and abuse, because they have nowhere better to go, for a plethora of reasons. I can imagine all sorts of reasons can be put forward why it is not as simple as opening up empty buildings so homeless people can sleep in them and bigger issues of addressing the lack of suitable accommodation, support services and a broken welfare system remain unresolved.
One good thing the petition will have achieved is to raise awareness and ask important questions. I look forward to what comes out of and being involved in the aftermath of the petition being submitted and finding practical ways we can all help. We must do what we can and right now I need to do shopping for tonight’s fund raiser meal.