A matter of life and death: an open letter to Southend Council about rough sleeping during extreme weather

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An open letter was recently written to the Southend-on-Sea Borough Council. The letter includes over 70 signatories, 15 from rough sleepers, over 30 from local faith leaders, and 25 from those who work with the homeless community in Southend. It highlights the risks of the most vulnerable sleeping on the streets during extreme cold weather.

To:       Rob Tinlin (Chief Executive of Southend-on-Sea Borough Council)
John Lamb (Leader of Southend-on-Sea Borough Council)

We appreciate Southend-on-Sea Borough Council’s efforts to encourage appropriate accommodation during the cold months for rough sleepers in Southend-on-Sea. The reality is there are many rough sleepers not able to access accommodation or winter night shelters and consequently sleep on the streets each night. Periodically, these people sleeping rough are under the age of eighteen. As you will be aware, for minors, there is a legal obligation to provide accommodation for those who are without shelter.

We applaud the work of the many charities and volunteers in Southend-on-Sea working tirelessly to provide shelter for the most vulnerable. This includes the valuable provision of the church’s winter night shelters run in partnership with HARP and Southend Borough Council. However, due to the firmer criteria regarding access to the night shelters there are many rough sleepers who cannot access these shelters. We appreciate firmer criteria are in place for safeguarding and health and safety reasons. Consequently, there may be more rough sleepers on the streets at night than those who are in the shelters.

Other protocols are therefore needed. The present severe weather emergency protocol is insufficient to ensure that people don’t die. The freezing temperatures put the lives of the most vulnerable at risk. With many people dying across Europe due to the cold, we as a town have an ethical responsibility to act with compassion and practically help those most in need. This is a situation of life and death.

There is a humanitarian obligation on local authorities to do everything possible to prevent deaths on the streets caused by winter weather. Our aim in writing this letter is to ensure: 1) that no one dies on the streets due to severe weather, and; 2) minors have access to accommodation at all times. We, the undersigned, have an interest in helping Southend’s rough sleeper population and would want to support initiatives to reduce homelessness.

Please advise, therefore, what measures you will take to develop more robust severe weather emergency protocols. Secondly, please confirm that you will provide emergency accommodation for minors if no other accommodation is reasonably available to them, as required by law.

Yours sincerely,

1. Rough Sleeping Community (both presently and previously rough sleeping)

Mr J Martin

Mr Michael Foster

Mr Darius Rackevicius

Mr Diack

Mr J Rayment

Mr Frank Forggerty

Ms Julie Myall

Mr Vidas

Mr Alan Gammer

Mr Judy Clark

Mr Simon Weddell

Mr Kurt Pugley

J.M Norman

Mr N.F Farrelly

Ms. N M Thorpe

2. Winter Night Shelter Workers and Volunteers

Mr John Simmons
Co-Ordinator of the Southend Churches Winter Night Shelters Chair of the Management Group of the Southend Street Pastors

Mr Del Thomas
Night shelter manager, Street Spirit

Mr David Eastwick
Night shelter deputy manager

Ms. Julie McEvoy
Night shelter deputy manager, 57 West

Ms Liz Wiles
Night shelter manager, Westcliff Free Church

Mr Peter Courtenay
Night shelter deputy manager, Ferndale Baptist Church

Mr Peter Bentley

Ms. Gillian Smith

Ms. Shelley Scott

Ms Jeanette Pool

Mr Robin Knight

Mr Matt Belcher

Ms. Shelley Honeyball

Ms. Aimee Belcher

Ms. Lisa Butcher

Mr. Mark Sheppherd

Ms. Jacqueline Hughes

Ms. Julie McKenzie

Ms. Judy Clark

Ms Jill Dillow

Mr Julian Ware-Lane

3. Community Faith Leaders

Revd Dr Dan Pratt
57 West, Southend

Revd Nick Lear
Regional Minister, Eastern Baptist Association

Mark Churchward
Southend Christian Fellowship and on behalf of its Leadership Team
Co-ordinator of Love Southend

Revd Stuart Woodward
Friars Baptist Church, Shoeburyness

Revd David Mayne
Shoeburyness & Thorpe Bay Baptist Church

Revd Hannah Bucke
Town Centre Minister, Southend and Leigh Methodist Circuit

Revd Jon Stannard
West Leigh Baptist Church

Revd Juliet Kilpin,
Avenue Baptist Church, Southend

Revd Jim Kilpin
Avenue Baptist Church, Southend

Rev Melanie Smith,
Crowstone St George’s and Westcliff United Reformed Church

Rev Mark Meatcher,
United Reformed Church minister

Revd Andrew Picton
Avenue Baptist Church

Revd Peter Dominey
Church from Scratch, Southend

Revd Ivan King
Church from Scratch, Southend

Revd Norman Hooks
United Methodist Church, Southend

Revd Emma Nash,
Leigh Road Baptist Church, Leigh-on-Sea

Revd Steve Tinning
Leigh Road Baptist Church, Leigh-on-Sea

Revd Dan Gates
Clarence Road Baptist Church, Southend

Captain Tracey Bale
Salvation Army, Southend Citadel

Major Andrew Bale
Salvation Army, Southend Citadel

Revd Tom Vernon
Earls Hall Baptist Church, Southend

Revd Scott Williamson
Rayleigh Baptist Church, Rayleigh

Revd Daniel Hatfield
Rayleigh Baptist Church, Rayleigh

Revd John Western
Westcliff Baptist Church, Westcliff-on-Sea

Revd Andy Goodliff
Belle Vue Baptist Church, Southchurch

Mr Bill Hoggard
Leaders, Southend Evangelical Church

Mr Nola Hoggard
Leaders, Southend Evangelical Church

Mr Andy Vincett,
Senior pastor, Southend Vineyard church

Mrs Samantha Vincett,
Senior pastor, Southend Vineyard church

Revd Colin S Baldwin
Saint Stephen’s, St. Peter’s and The Bridgwater Drive Church

Revd David Pierce
Saint Stephen’s, St. Peter’s and The Bridgwater Drive Church

4. Community Leaders and Participants

Mr Rob Carvosso,
The Storehouse manager, Southend Vineyard church

Mr Kevin McEvoy
Senior paramedic acting supervisor east of England ambulance service

Frank Edmonds
Serving the Homeless

Pat Short
Serving the Homeless

Steve Dalley
Youth and Community Worker, Southend Christian Fellowship.

Jo Bates
Chair Homeless Hub

Stanford Biti
CAST

David Yallop
Street Pastor

John Barber
Chair Southend Homeless Action Network