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Opening doors for the homeless in Chelmsford

Emergency

For those finding themselves newly homeless, for whatever reason, help is often a matter of survival

Help is urgent

For those finding themselves newly homeless, for whatever reason, help is often a matter of survival. We have had people turn up at our door after being evicted by parents, siblings, partners, friends or landlords, with nothing but the clothes they stand up in. Others have just what they were able to carry in a suitcase or rucksack. It is never enough and, if you are suddenly told to get out, you are not likely to be thinking sufficiently clearly to work out what you are most going to need.

The immediate problem is one of survival. You have to protect yourself from the elements somehow and sometimes you also have to protect yourself from those who would prey on you. Then you have to find yourself enough food and drink to keep yourself alive and hope that what you get is also the right quality to keep you healthy. To maintain both your health and your self-respect you have to keep yourself and your clothes clean. Even if you had a job you are not likely to be able to keep it once you are "of no fixed abode". How do you make sure you get enough honest money to keep going?

Homelessness may be your most pressing difficulty but it is not likely to be the underlying problem. If you have lost the place where you were living, it must have been for a reason. Perhaps your parents kicked you out because they never really cared for you in the first place. Your friends may have got fed up with your heavy drinking. Possibly you have never been much good at managing your own affairs and spent the money that should have gone to pay your rent. Maybe you are suffering from some mental illness.

Whatever the underlying problems may be, they could soon get worse. Even if your mental and physical health is good, it will very quickly deteriorate. You need someone to turn to for help. For most homeless people in Chelmsford that means CHESS.

A case study

A woman in her late thirties turned up at the Night Shelter door one night very early in January one year. She had nothing but what she was wearing. It transpired that her husband had thrown her out between Christmas and the New Year. He had done so in desperation because he feared her alcoholism was harming their young children and, after trying to cope for months, was finally at the end of his tether.

She slept rough for three nights. On the third of those nights she was woken by someone sexually assaulting her.

Luckily she then found her way to us and we were able to take her in. While she was with us she was able to tackle her alcoholism. After a few weeks she moved from our Night Shelter to the Annexe and after a few months there she was able to move into accommodation of her own. She may never return to her husband and children but she is rebuilding her life.