Highlands Methodist Church

Tel: 01702 479476
Email the Office

Annual Report 17-18

Click here to read the 2018 report

Southend Churches Winter Night Shelters: 2017 - 2018

Annual Report by John Simmons (Shelter Co-Ordinator)

[john.simmons17ewb@btinternet.com (Mobile 07866 740065)]

The Headlines

  • The most challenging season yet: the numbers, the cold weather, and Avenue Baptist’s Shelter Manager pulling out with 6 weeks to go!
  • 7 churches provided a nominal 20 beds per night from 29th November 2017 to 20th March 2018; 112 nights gave a potential 2240 bed nights.
  • 2260 were filled (101%); an average of 20 guests per night.
  • We provided 139 different guests with a meal, bed and breakfast.
  • We were very busy right from the start being full or over capacity on 9 nights before 31/12/17. From 01/02/18 until the end of the season (47 nights), we were over capacity on 42 of them.
  • Only about 50% of the guests were referred by HARP.
  • About 400 volunteers gave approx. 10,500 hours which would have cost approx. £77,500 if paid at the adult minimum wage.
  • We provided approx. 2800 evening meals (+ those for volunteers) and almost 2300 breakfasts (again + those for the volunteers).
  • HARP report that 64 of the 139 guests were “Off the Streets” (39 were “housed”); unfortunately, a few have since lost their accommodation.
  • The SWEP operated for one week this winter prompting the Council to open an Emergency Rest Centre at their Tickfield Centre (see below).



      Under the Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP) Southend Borough Council (SBC) has to provide shelter from the elements for rough sleepers when the temperature is forecast to be below 0oC for 3 nights in a row. In the past, they did this with the help of e.g. HARP [The Southend Homeless Action Resource Project] and by using local hostels, hotels and B&Bs. However, this was a very expensive solution.

      In the late summer of 2011, SBC approached the churches in Southend (through Love Southend) to see if any church buildings could be made available alongside the provision listed above. Over the 2011 - 12 winter, three churches provided a shelter one night a week each and helped just over 100 guests by providing an evening meal, a warm bed, and breakfast.


      For the last five winters, seven churches have been able to cover one night a week each. They provided meals and shelter for 155 guests in 2012 - 13; 137 in 2013 - 14; 125 in 2014 - 15; 148 in 2015 - 16; and 128 in 2016 - 17.


    2017/2018 (Our 7th Season)

        For this winter, the venues were as follows:-

            - Sunday: Avenue Baptist Church (Westcliff);

            - Monday: Leigh Road Baptist Church;

            - Tuesday: Shoebury and Thorpe Bay Baptist Church;

            - Wednesday: Belle Vue Baptist Church (Southchurch);

            - Thursday: Westcliff Free Church;

            - Friday: Ferndale Baptist Church (Southend); and

            - Saturday: United Methodist Church (at Whittingham Avenue).

        We started on 29th November 2017 and finished on 20th March 2018. This meant that we were open for 16 weeks = 112 nights. With a nominal capacity of 20 beds per night, we had a potential 2240 bed nights available. But, because we were so busy, 2266 bednights were filled (101%) with an average of 20 guests per night.

        139 different guests were provided with a meal, bed and breakfast by just over 400 volunteers who worked for almost 10,500 hours which if paid at the Adult Living Wage in force over the winter (£7.50ph) would have cost approx. £77,500. We cooked almost 2800 evening meals and approx. 2300 breakfasts.

        Details about our guests and their attendance were captured on a spreadsheet provided by Housing Justice; the anonymised data was sent to them at the end of the season to help get a nationwide picture.

        A full set of statistics for the season is available on request.


    Typical Programme

      6.30pm: volunteers arrive to prepare the venue and cook the meal.

    7.15pm:   briefing and prayer time.

    7.30pm:   doors open.

    8.30pm:   meal.

    10.30pm:         bed time - at least one volunteer will stay awake overnight.

    6.30am:   wake-up time.

       7am:    breakfast.

    7.30am:   goodbye and clear up.

       8am:    volunteers leave.



      Potential guests had to go to HARP at the Bradbury Centre, York Road) before 2pm (Monday - Friday only). They were then referred to the shelters using an agreed process which included a risk assessment.

      We asked everyone else not to send guests direct to the individual shelters in case there was not room. However, word soon got round and many guests self-referred, some quite regularly.


    Other Points

      a) In order to better support the guests and to encourage them to engage with all the support services available to them, HARP developed a Personal Action Plan with each guest. These contained steps such as register with a GP; attend an addiction counselling group; or make a Benefits claim. Depending on the guest’s needs, these were reviewed weekly or monthly. It was again heartening to see some guests making real efforts to engage and, as a result, reduce their alcohol intake and/or substance abuse, and find accommodation and/or employment.

      b) We thank God that there was only one major incident between guests this winter. However, there was a disturbing number of incidents of disruptive behaviour, and verbal abuse of Shelter Managers and volunteers, especially from some of our younger guests.

      c) At the start of the season the new Shelter Manager at Avenue Baptist Church promised more volunteers and a better managed Shelter than in the previous winter. Unfortunately, he couldn’t deliver and reports from volunteers and guests gave me more concern than all the other shelters put together. I sent my observations and concerns to the Shelter Manager who took them as personal criticism and stepped down with 6 weeks to go; some of the other volunteers and the cook also left. I am very grateful to those volunteers who stayed and all who came forward (mostly from other Shelters) to keep the Shelter going.

  d) The weather: After some light snow in early February, we were hit by the “Beast from the East” on Monday 26th February. Over the next few days, there were at least 2 snow storms and the days and nights were all very cold. Although reacting a little late, the Council opened their Tickfield Centre as an Emergency Rest Centre on 26th for 7 nights and hosted about 20 people, some of whom would not have come in to the CWNSs.

  e) When the CWNSs closed, a community group called “Off the Streets” opened a Shelter using Southchurch Park URC every night to give about 20 guests a bed and a simple breakfast.


Working in Partnership

    The Winter Night Shelters are very much a partnership:

  • the 7 churches provided the venues for the shelters, the volunteers to manage and staff them, and the food and cooks to feed the guests;
  • Love Southend allowed us to use their charity number and bank account, and their Treasurer did our accounts for us;
  • the Council gave us a grant that paid for the Co-Ordinator’s time, and they also paid for all the sleeping bags to be laundered twice: (mid-season and end-of-season); and
  • HARP referred the guests to us and provided much advice and assistance during the winter. They also do most of the “back-end” work with the guests, and it is again exciting to report that they do so as part of a multi-agency effort that is having some success in helping rough sleepers (especially those who have been on the street for some time) find accommodation and even employment.


    Next Winter

        I am aware that some of the 7 churches are not available next winter; I will be working through the summer to replace them.

        More churches are very welcome; it would be great to have 14 churches so that we could provide 2 shelters a night! Or we could open for longer using 2 separate circuits, each of 7 churches.


    Thanks are due to:

  • Our guests who made it all worthwhile.
  • The Shelter Managers, their deputies, all the volunteers and cooks;
  • The Minibus Drivers (and their assistants) who transported the guests to Leigh Road Baptist on Mondays and to Shoebury Baptist on Tuesdays; sometimes they had to make 2 journeys and had to deal with some awkward guests. And John Barber who helped me assist the drivers at the pick-up point in Warrior Square.
  • HARP: particularly Elliott Barker, Neal McCardle (until he left!), Andrew Marshall, and Gary Turner. And for the use of their minibus.
  • Southend Borough Council: particularly Phill Warren (Community Housing Manager).
  • The Trustees of SEELEF and Clive Baggallay (the Love Southend Treasurer).
  • All our donors (for money and gifts in kind).




Southend Churches Winter Night Shelters


Stats for the 2017/2018 Season


a) Bed nights filled:

  • Open 29/11/17 - 20/03/18 = 16 weeks = 112 nights.
  • At a nominal capacity of 20 beds/night = 2240 potential bed nights.
  • 2266 bed nights were filled (i.e. 101%), because we were full on 15 nights and over capacity on another 46 nights.
  • Unusually, we were full or over capacity for 9 nights before 31/12/17.
  • From 01/02/18 until the end of the season, we were over capacity on 42 of those 47 nights.
  • Most overnight guests = 31 (on 1 night).
  • Least overnight guests = 13 (on 1 night - Christmas Eve!).
  • Average no. of overnight guests = 20.


    b) Guests:

  • 139 guests were given a bed for at least one night (cp 128 over 17 weeks last winter).
  • 29 were in the WNSs last winter, and another 14 in previous winters.
  • Males: 112; Females: 26 (19% - same as last winter); Transgender: 1.
  • Only 1 night: 28; 2 -> 7 nights: 43; 8 -> 28 nights: 43; > 28 nights: 26.
  • 1 guest was with us every night!
  • 2 more guests only missed 1 night: 1 was referred on the 1st night, but didn’t turn up; the other was able to stay with family on Christmas Eve.
  • 4 other guests were with us for over 60 nights (1 for > 90 nights).


    N.B. Some of the following counts may not add up to 139, because not all the guests gave all the necessary information.

  • Ages: <25: 24; 25 -> 34: 35; 35 -> 44: 33; 45 -> 54: 28; >54: 8.
  • On their first night in WNS: 67 were referred by HARP; 66 self-referred; and 7 were referred by other agencies (e.g. the Police).
  • From the UK: 109; EEA - Non UK: 17; Non-EEA: 6.
  • Receiving benefits: Yes: 67; No: 37;
  • No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF): 13.
  • Misusing Alcohol: 33; Misusing Drugs: 24.
  • Physical Health Problems: 54; Mental Health Problems: 72.
  • Learning Difficulties: 13 (mostly dyslexic and/or illiterate).
  • Homeless because of a relationship breakdown: 10. 
  • Been in prison in the last year: 19.                                      


    c) Guests not given a bed:

  • 174 potential guests could not be given a bed for at least one night. The most common reasons for this were: they were referred but did not turn up, or they just came for a meal.
    • 38 of them were referred (at least once), but never turned up.
    • 41 of them only ever came “just for a meal”; some on a very regular basis!
  • N.B. There was a considerable overlap between the guests who were given a bed, the potential guests who could not be given one, and those who just did not turn up. There were many reasons for this, including:-
    • They self-referred for the first night but the shelter was full; they then went to HARP and were referred so they could stay on subsequent nights.
    • They were referred on a Friday for the 3 nights over the weekend, but only turned up on 1 or 2 of those nights.
    • Some regularly referred guests were occasionally able to stay with friends or family (sometimes the offer was made after they had been referred).


      d) Housing Outcomes

      - As recorded when guests first stopped attending the shelters.

      - Unfortunately, some of them have since lost their accommodation.

  • Off Streets: 64 [Hostel: 28 (all at HARP); Local Council: 3; Private Rented Sector: 8; Moved back to sofa surfing: 14;         In custody: 3; Back in Country of Origin: 4; Other: 4]     
  • Transferred to another shelter: 25 (24 to “Off the Streets”);
  • Failed to Engage: 24; Returned to streets: 8.
  • Other/Not known: 18 (inc. 1 died [in prison])


    e) Meals served:

  • Evening: 2266 for overnight guests + 361 "meal only" guests

            = 2767 meals (+ those for the volunteers).

  • Breakfasts = approx. 2266 (+ those for the volunteers).


    f) Volunteers:

    - Just over 400 volunteers gave almost 10,500 hours of their time.

    - That would have cost approx. £77,500 if they had been paid at the adult living wage in force at the time (£7.50ph).




Powered by Church Edit