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Our Southend Homelessness petition has now reached 12,000 signatures, and the council has responded


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.

If you want to take a look at the petition, you can read it here.

There has now been a response from Southend Borough Council, the Southend CWNS and the local service for the homeless HARP – the latter has also addressed the petition directly.

HARP’s Chief Executive, Gill Garwood, says:

“It’s been wonderful to see over 10,000 people show their support for homeless people in Southend this week by signing Southend Bible’s petition asking for more empty shop spaces to be used as shelters over the winter months.

“At HARP, we believe that no one should be sleeping rough in this day and age. On 29th November, the Southend Churches Winter Night Shelters will open their doors to give local homeless people a safe and warm place to sleep throughout the winter months.

“We are proud to be part of this partnership with local churches and Southend Borough Council, which provides up to 20 extra places to sleep for people who are homeless. We hope this will come as good news to those who have signed the petition, who might not be aware of this service that has undoubtedly saved lives throughout the winter months.

“The churches provide a fantastic temporary provision, especially during the coldest months of the year – much like utilising empty shop spaces would too. However, to really make an impact people need permanent housing and that’s what we’re continually working on at HARP.

“Everyone that stays at the churches has an action plan, so that HARP can work with them on an ongoing basis with an aim to them moving in to their own home in the long term. Last year, 54% of those who stayed at the churches did not return to the streets by the close of the season.

HARP’s frontline staff who work with the homeless in their Bradbury Centre – Image Credit: HARP

“Of those that unfortunately didn’t find a place to stay, many of them took positive steps in the right direction. This year, with the help of the churches and the council, we are aiming to improve on this, and ensure that more people who stay at the churches don’t have to resort to rough sleeping when they close after the winter.

“We currently house up to 174 people, who would otherwise be homeless. Each resident has a keyworker who helps them to access support and advice so that they can overcome any issues that might surround their homelessness situation. We also help people learn new skills, access educational courses and find a home of their own.

“Our work is only possible thanks to the amazing support we get from our local community, so thank you to everyone who has helped us provide the best possible support to local people taking steps towards overcoming homelessness for good.”

The responses from those within Southend Borough Council discuss homelessness in general, without there being a direct response to the petition.

Having said this, it was addressed in the print edition on the Southend Echo on Wednesday 15th November.

An image of the article is below.

Credit: Southend Echo

20 extra places to sleep for local homeless people this winter

HARP, Love Southend and Southend Borough Council have once again teamed up to provide somewhere for homeless people in Southend to sleep through the winter months.

The partnership was set up in 2011, in response to the growing number of rough sleepers who found themselves with nowhere to go in the bitter winter months.

Now in its seventh season, the Southend Churches Winter Night Shelters will add 20 extra bed spaces per night as seven churches across Southend open their doors for one night a week each from 29th November to 20th March.

Last year, 54% of the people who stayed at the churches did not return to the streets by the time the Shelters closed for the season.

Even for those who were unable to find accommodation, positive steps were taken with 18 being signposted to treatment services, 10 to group therapy and 6 to a local GP.

This was seen as a fantastic success by everyone involved.

This year, the partnership will continue to give people staying at the churches the best possible chance of beating homelessness by helping them to address any issues that might be surrounding their homelessness through the development of a personalised action plan.

The partnership is encouraging anyone who has become homeless or is at risk of homelessness to go to HARP’s Bradbury Centre, a warm and safe place for them to recover from the harsh reality of living on the streets.

Each individual who walks through the doors will sit down with a team member from HARP to discuss their situation.

Depending on their needs and what is available, HARP may be able to offer them a bed space in one of their hostels.

In the winter months, thanks to the generosity and hard work of the participating churches and their volunteers, the number of spaces available increases by 20 each night.

Image Credit: HARP

Co-Ordinator of the Churches Winter Night Shelters, John Simmons, said:

“I have been the Co-Ordinator of the Southend Churches Winter Night Shelters since we started 7 winters ago. We have provided a hot meal, a bed and breakfast to over 100 guests every winter, and I would like to thank everyone involved in hosting and running the Shelters, and volunteering at them.

“We anticipate more guests this winter than ever before, so everybody’s continued hard work in helping them is incredibly valued. Volunteers are always welcome, especially those who are willing to stay overnight.

“It is a great joy to see guests move forward in their lives, with many getting help from HARP, the Council and other agencies. Some of them take major steps towards beating their addictions, whilst others are able to come off the streets and find housing.

“We are very pleased to be able to participate in this rewarding partnership.”

Image Credit: CWNS / HARP

HARP’s Service Operations Manager, Gary Turner, added:

]“The Church Winter Night Shelters are a great opportunity for people to be safe, secure and warm, whilst also engaging with us to move their lives forward.

“We are very proud to be part of this partnership, which has become a vital service for local homeless people over the winter months. After the success of last year, it is great to continue to collaborate and evolve together so that we can ensure that vulnerable people in Southend are receiving the best possible support to help them now, whilst ultimately working towards a life away from the streets.”

Cllr Mark Flewitt – Image Credit: Southend Borough Council

Cllr Mark Flewitt, Executive Councillor for Housing, says:

“The winter night shelters help ensure people can access food, shelter and companionship and are absolutely vital in our bid to keep rough sleepers off the streets during the coldest months of the year.

“We are therefore very pleased to help fund and plan this much needed service again this year, thanks to our strong partnership with the Love Southend faith group and HARP. Not only does this project provide much needed shelter, it also enables us all to provide further support, treatment, and help where we can, and in many cases get people off the streets for good. I must thank everyone involved in this great scheme.”

All the Shelters need volunteers (especially overnight). If you would like to get involved, please contact John Simmons at john.simmons17ewb@btinternet.com.

We will try and get a response from other local homelessness organisations in due course.



The owners of Tropical Wings Zoo in South Woodham Ferrers have announced that their zoo is to close permanently in December.

The announcement was made on their Facebook page, and users are already reacting with a great amount of sadness on social media.

Their announcement said:

It is with great sadness that we will be closing our wonderful zoo forever on 3rd December.

We have been on a fantastic journey with what has become a business to be very proud of, but sadly, due to ill health, the time has come for us to retire.

We have not taken this decision lightly but circumstances have dictated this action.

We would like to thank everyone that has helped over the years to make our zoo the wonderful venue it has become and for your continued support during this difficult time.

Over the coming months our priority will be working to find all our wonderful animals new and caring homes within the zoo community.

We would like to take this opportunity to assure all of our season ticket holders that reimbursements by post will be processed from 4th December but please bear with us as I’m sure you will all understand there is a large number to process.

Please call 01245 425394 to discuss your refund.

Our customer service line will remain open for a period of time between 10am-3pm for any queries – 01245 425394.

Dennis and Rona Strong – Zoo Owners

With much sadness on a personal level, the team at The Southend Bible would like to pass on their best wishes to the owners of this fantastic zoo that has been a shining example of fantastic Essex tourism and hospitality for many years.

Petition to Southend Council to let homeless sleep in vacant shops in winter signed 1000 times in two hours


A petition that we set up to encourage Southend Borough Council to let homeless people sleep in vacant retail units on cold winter nights has been signed more than 1000 times in just two hours!

Massive thanks to everyone who has signed and shared it so far – you can take a look yourself by clicking here.

Within just a few minutes of the petition going live, it had already been marked as ‘Trending’ on change.org.

We are aware that there would be a number of legal and health and safety issues to a plan like this, but our main objective is to get the debate started by showing the local authority that there is an appetite for this sort of solution.

The petition itself reads as follows:

With Winter getting underway, it is simply heartbreaking to walk around Southend Town Centre at night and get a true idea of the town’s homelessness problem.

Let’s be perfectly honest with ourselves for one moment – this is 2017, and this is a disgrace.

The purpose of this petition isn’t to lay the blame at the door of any one particular organisation – we are simply acknowledging that something needs to be done about this NOW.

We are also acknowledging that there is a potential solution that is staring everyone in the face.

Sleeping rough is risky enough at any time of the year, but over the Winter there is the added danger of succumbing to the effects of the freezing cold.

Our idea may not be a popular one in everyone’s eyes, but it is definitely worth considering.

Southend High Street and the surrounding areas have a handful of vacant retail units, and we don’t want to name them all here, but the idea isn’t as crazy as it sounds.

There is a shopping centre in Stratford (the older one) that takes in rough sleepers at night, and as far as we can tell there is little or no inconvenience to existing business owners or shoppers who arrive the next day. If this can be done in a functioning retail unit, why can’t it be done in a vacant one?

Southend has a number of amazing organisations that are dedicated to helping the homeless, and therefore there could well be enough people to volunteer for these ‘pop-up homeless shelters.’

We’re not saying that it would be an easy task in terms of health and safety or legal considerations – we’re just saying that the idea needs to be considered.

Once again, you can take a look yourself by clicking here.

PLEASE SHARE Essex Police appeal to find missing 16 year old girl from Basildon


Essex Police have issued an appeal on Facebook to find a missing 16 year old girl from Basildon called Reannon Kelsey-Clinch. 

The update says:

We are appealing for information to help find a 16 year-old girl who has gone missing from #Basildon.

Reannon Kelsey-Clinch was last seen at around 10pm on Wednesday, November 8 and reported missing the following day.

She is described as white, 5ft 7ins tall, slim with long straight blonde hair.

When she was last seen she was wearing a grey tracksuit with black Nike Airmax trainers and carrying a white handbag with black straps.

Reannon is considered to be vulnerable and we’re concerned for her welfare.

We’ve exhausted our other lines of enquiry which is why we’re now asking you for help.

If you recognise her or have any information about where she might be please contact us on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Please share on Facebook on Twitter.

If you have a story that you want to share with 100,000 people across South Essex, please info@southendbible.com

Photo Credit: Essex Police / Facebook


Leigh school visits Southend Cenotaph for touching act of remembrance


A primary school in Leigh On Sea visited the Southend Cenotaph on Friday to leave a wreath and take a few moments to reflect on the meaning of Remembrance. 

Saint Pierre School has children aged between 2 1/2 and 11 years old, and all pupils took part in lessons that covered how the poppy is worn to remember those who gave their lives in conflict.

Once the whole school held two minutes’ silence at 11am the day before Armistice Day, a small group of pupils attended the Southend Cenotaph on the top of the cliffs to lay a wreath.

The wreath that was made from natural materials gathered in Belfairs Woods.

The school’s co-proprietor Kurt Davies said:

At Saint Pierre School, we take the day of remembrance very seriously, and we will always be in the debt of our fallen heroes. 

Every child stood proud, hand in hand in the playground for the two minutes’ silence.

I could not be more proud of each and every child in our school, and the older children have been discussing the symbolism of The Last Post and The Reveil and why they are used at either end of the silence.

The Southend Cenotaph

The children have also helped raise money for The Royal British Legion by bringing in a couple of pounds for poppy-themed stationery, as well as the traditional poppies for their blazers.

The wreath was made from natural materials that children in the school’s Nursery collected from Belfairs Woods in Leigh On Sea.

The poppy alongside the school’s badge

If your children’s school marked the occasion with a similar gesture and you have photos that you would like to share, please email info@southendbible.com.

Pupils and staff observe two minutes’ silence

Rochford’s Sarah Gearing has just come out of life-saving surgery and is recovering well


You may have been aware that Rochford’s Sarah Gearing was due to have her life-saving surgery on Thursday, and we are pleased to report that the procedure is now complete and she is recovering in hospital.

Her campaign team has been in touch to say that everything went to plan, and they have also added that further surgery will be required as a result of medical examination during the initial procedure – their fundraising target has been updated to reflect this.

We are also delighted to report that the original target of £130,000 was hit just as Sarah was being wheeled down to surgery in Spain!

Here are the latest updates from the SurvivalSurgery4Sarah Team, and we wish her all the best for her recovery.


The SurvivalSurgery4Sarah campaign team are absolutely delighted to report that Sarah’s surgery finished earlier than expected, and Dr Gilete has said it went well.

David received a call at 6.30pm UK time summoning him to the hospital and he arrived to see Sarah’s anaesthetist leaving with a big smile, which was the first indication of good news.

We are told the neck fusion and spinal cord untethering went well.

Sarah is currently in ICU, in a temporary induced coma. David has been told she will be brought round at some point in the course of Friday, at which point doctors will be able to assess her and carefully monitor her recovery.

It is expected her breathing tubes will be out on Friday, and they have said her halo could be removed as early as Monday.

There are a lot of unknowns at the moment, as everything is ‘wait and see’ with regard to how Sarah’s body settles down and recovers from this initial fusion.

At the moment it looks as though the additional surgery will not be planned to run concurrently with this procedure, so if Sarah doesn’t encounter complications and recovers well then we are hopeful she will be home in time for Christmas.

In summary, the immediate life-saving element of Sarah’s surgery has been completed, and it is the generosity of everyone’s support that has made that possible.

For now, we celebrate good news and are grateful to God, Sarah’s family and friends, and all near and far who have supported her to get to this point. We look forward to providing more updates in the coming days.

Earlier in the day, her campaign team also released a statement about hitting their fundraising target and the additional procedure that would be needed.

We are absolutely delighted to announce that our initial fundraising goal of £130,000 for SurvivalSurgery4Sarah has been reached, today, the day before Sarah’s surgery.

To have raised this in just six weeks feels like nothing short of a miracle. It represents an outpouring of love from Sarah’s family, friends, her local community of Rochford, and strangers near and far, from around the world, who have been moved by her story; it represents phenomenal effort and countless prayers.

Sarah has already said that words are not enough to express her gratitude. She would love to thank each and every person who has supported her in so many ways, whether via their finances or their time and energy.

In the midst of drafting a statement to celebrate this success we had some very difficult news from Sarah. As a result of her up-to-date scans and examinations in Barcelona in the last couple of days it has become apparent that her spine has deteriorated more than expected and her scoliosis (curvature of the spine) and instability has become severe.

She has been told that she now needs a full spinal fusion. Sarah is currently processing what this will mean for her following surgery, as she will have significantly reduced mobility.

Sarah has said she feels at peace with this decision and is glad that the surgical team have picked up on the best way to strengthen and safeguard her entire spine – a better option for her than having partial fusion now and potentially running into serious problems later.

Because Sarah’s body would not withstand a full spinal fusion in a single operation the decision has been taken to proceed with the original life-saving neck and skull fusion surgery as planned.

Providing there are no complications it is then expected that she will have the remaining fusion surgery around a month from now or as soon as her recovery allows.

This news carries with it massive financial implications. Full costs are yet to become clear and the doctors treating her will only be able to provide more certainty on the costs once assessments are carried out on Sarah’s progress about 10 days after the initial surgery.

There are many reasons it is hard to give an exact figure, and at this stage we do not know whether or not Sarah will be returning to the UK between her procedures, but we estimate at the moment that it will be in the region of an additional £70,000. We are committed to continuing to help Sarah and therefore the SurvivalSurgery4Sarah campaign will go on.

We hope that those who have been kind enough to fundraise and share her story will continue to do so. All funds raised will be held in a dedicated Trust for Sarah and used for her needs.

This experience has made Sarah all the more determined to recover well, to pursue life in all its fullness and to become a source of support and advice for other EDS patients facing this arduous journey.

DONATE at www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/SurvivalSurgery4Sarah
FUNDRAISE with family and friends
FOLLOW Sarah’s story via Facebook at SurvivalSurgery4Sarah, her blog survivalsurgerysarah.blogspot.co.uk and Twitter @SurvivalSurgerySarah
SHARE Sarah’s story.

First pictures of car on its side after it hits a truck in Southend Town Centre


The owner of a truck has sent in a number of pictures after his vehicle was hit by a car near Southend Town Centre on Thursday afternoon.

According to Laurence Leone, a black Mercedes hit his truck in Scratton Road and ended up on its side after hitting and damaging his vehicle and one other.

He added: ‘I had a call from the police to say that my vehicle had been hit, and when I got over there I noticed that there was a Mercedes on its side in the middle of the road.’

The incident happened at around 3.30 on Thursday afternoon.


Credit: Laurence Leone

Credit: Laurence Leone

Credit: Laurence Leone

Credit: Laurence Leone


Tina Turner Experience comes to Southend in December with a homegrown leading lady and cast


The Tina Turner Experience is making it’s way to the Palace Theatre in Westcliff on the 15th of December. For the show’s star, Julie Nevada and 5 of the dancers, it’s quite a homecoming!

Julie, who is portraying Tina Turner is one of the world’s leading Tina Turner impersonators – and a Southend girl!

Recognised as a national and international artiste, she has been performing since she was 15 and has appeared in many West End shows such as Annie, The Sound of Music and Bugsy Malone.

You can watch the trailer below:

Her sensational vocals are backed by a 7 piece live band, complete with backing singers and 4 dancers – who are also from Southend!

Included in the show are some of Tina Turner’s biggest hits like Private Dancer, Nutbush City Limits, Proud Mary, River Deep Mountain and ‘Simply The Best’, all sure to have you singing along and dancing in the aisles.

With a full light show, video visuals of Tina’s life, costume changes and outstanding performances, this is surely not to be missed.

You can buy tickets here:


or check out the show and other tour dates here:


Article by Annie Humphrey, who is the lead singer of Essex-based cover band Frog On A Rocket – check out their Facebook page here.

WIN TWO TICKETS to the big night by entering our Facebook competition. Click here to find out more.

If you have a story that you want to share with more than 100,000 people across South Essex, get in touch by email at info@southendbible.com.

Photo Credit: The Tina Turner Experience


Southend Council appeals for info after index finger theft from Queen Victoria statue leaves her doing ‘fist bump’


Southend Borough Council have appealed for information from the public after the index finger was stolen from the town’s clifftop statue of Queen Victoria.

As you will see in the photo below, she normally points an authoritative finger out to sea for the benefit of passing seafarers (or perhaps ‘Thamesfarers,’ but that’s another argument), but the callous theft and/or vandalism has left Her Majesty doing more of a ‘fist bump’ – Southend’s local authority is now desperate for information about the incident.

Her Majesty in her full ‘Majesty,’ complete with index finger.

According to the council’s website:

On Friday 3 November a member of the public reported that the town’s famous Queen Victoria Statue on Clifftown Parade, Southend, was missing a finger.

The imperial digit, which usually points majestically to the sea, is thought to have been vandalised between 2 and 3 November, resulting in the stately statue now delivering a rather undignified fist-bump to passing seafarers.

A member of the public collected up the pieces of the finger from the floor but unfortunately, not enough of the finger remains to reattach it.

It is not the first time vandals have targeted the statue. Only in April, Council staff replaced the statue’s nose, hands and missing sceptre parts at a cost of £3,000. The Parks Technical team will now consider when a new finger can be carved and the AWOL appendage is replaced.

Her Majesty’s new, unwanted ‘fist bump’ pose.

Cllr Ann Holland, Executive Councillor for Culture, Tourism and The Economy, said: “It was Queen Victoria who signed the Royal Charter in 1892, giving Southend its Borough status. She was the town’s greatest fan and patron and it is right that her contribution to the town be commemorated.

“It is extremely disappointing that the statue has yet again been vandalised. Restoring the statue is a technical and costly task, and that is a cost that has to be shared by all residents through their Council tax.

“I urge anyone with information about this wanton act of vandalism to pass it on to Essex Police.”

All joking aside, this statue is a major part of Southend’s cultural identity, and any help to ‘finger’ those responsible would be much appreciated!

Got a story that you want to share with more than 100,000 people across South Essex? Email info@southendbible.com.

Photo Credit: Southend Borough Council / Facebook

Benfleet woman raising money to get mother’s ashes back from funeral directors


A woman from Benfleet has launched a crowdfunding campaign to try and raise enough money to pay for her mother’s cremation after an application for a DWP funeral payment on behalf of her now widowed father was rejected.

Nova Moore, 42, is trying to raise £2000 in total to cover the basic cremation and fundraising charges so that the funeral directors in London are able to release her mother Rosemary’s urn.

Nova added that everything has felt like ‘a bit of a blur’ because of the original shock at being told that she only had a few weeks to live due to cancer.

Her crowdfunding page can be found here, and it says:

My mother passed away from cancer five weeks ago today. Me and my father had Mum cremated.

My father receives a state pension, and so is not in a position to pay for Mum’s cremation.

The funeral directors have said that I cannot get Mum’s ashes until I have paid.

I applied for a government funeral payment but it was refused due to my father getting a state pension, and not getting pension credits.

I just want my Mum home. I hope you can help.

Speaking about the funeral payment application from the Department of Work and Pensions, she said:

‘The DWP told me that it was rejected because my mother has a living partner. I appealed and told them that my father gets a state pension, but this appeal failed for the same reason.’

‘They also told me that because my father does not receive pension credits he wouldn’t be entitled to the payment.’

The Southend Bible has spoken to the funeral directors in London to confirm that they have Nova’s mother’s ashes and that the fundraising goal will cover any necessary costs. We have also contacted the DWP for a comment.