What is Bluebird?
Bluebird is a 56 bed development in Southchurch Avenue, Southend-on-Sea, comprising the refurbishment of three existing properties, alongside six brand new houses built to environmentally friendly PassivHaus standards.
Using innovative building techniques and providing a secure and serene base for recovery, Bluebird provides Supported Housing to those with medium and complex needs at HARP, giving residents blue skies and bright futures before moving on to independent living.
Alongside the 50 room accommodation, the Bluebird site will host a new Learning For Life educational centre, allowing residents to take up training opportunities to further aid the journey towards independence.
Jack first became homeless when he was just 19 years old. Things got worse when his dad died suddenly and he turned to drink and drugs as a coping mechanism.
"I'd never really done anything to sort my life out before but the people at HARP were really nice. They could tell I was scared and tried to make me feel comfortable. The staff spoke to me like I’m human and supported me with no judgement – they didn’t look down their noses at me.”
Read Jack's story in full here.
Who is Bluebird for?
Bluebird houses a mixture of clients with medium and complex needs. It consists of 35 low to medium needs, and 21 complex needs bed spaces.
For people experiencing homelessness, early intervention is key. If support can be given early in life, repeat cases of homelessness can be prevented, and people are more likely to avoid getting stuck in the revolving door of homelessness.
Why is Bluebird needed?
According to the UK Government, nationally there was a 26% rise in the number of people found sleeping rough from 2021 to 2022.
In total, we work with around 1,000 people every year.
In the year ending February 2023, HARP helped 1,050 people. Many had complex needs with 62% reporting a history of drug misuse, and 60% reporting ill mental health.
The ongoing, and soon to worsen, Cost of Living Crisis is expected to push more local people into homelessness, so the affordable Supported Accommodation and support provided by Bluebird is needed more than ever.
HARP Floating Support Team Manager
Matthew and his Floating Support Team manage Bluebird on a day to day basis, including providing tailored support for residents.
“We aim to help people by supporting them with any problems they might be experiencing, whilst also giving them the opportunity to learn about budgeting, encouraging them to learn new skills and helping them to take steps crucial towards starting successful careers so that they can move away from homelessness for good.”
How is Bluebird managed?
Bluebird is managed seven days a week by a team of dedicated HARP staff, fully trained in supporting people to overcome homelessness.
Our team works with residents to build an action plan based on support, accommodation and meaningful activity, in order to provide a platform for moving away from homelessness and on to independence.
See for yourself
What should I do if I'm worried about a homeless person or a rough sleeper?If you're worried about the wellbeing of someone you've seen sleeping rough on the street in Southend, you can contact Streetlink, a national website enabling members of the public to alert the relevant local authority and charities to rough sleepers in their area. Use this link to tell Streetlink about a rough sleeper in Southend: https://www.streetlink.org.uk/ If you speak to a rough sleeper, please let them know about HARP's services, and particularly our Bradbury Day Centre on York Road, where they can access a free hot breakfast as well as advice and support.
How can I get involved and help local homeless people?There are lots of different ways that you can get involved and help local homeless people. Depending on how much time you have to give, there are various levels of commitment: For those that don’t have a huge amount of time to dedicate, the best way to support us is by giving a regular donation from your bank account. This provides us with vital funds that we can use where the need is greatest – depending on the challenges we’re facing at any the time. Regular gifts enable us to plan ahead and budget and provide sustainable, long-term help for local homeless people. For those who are looking to offer some volunteering time and want to get involved on a practical level, you can either: become a fundraiser: run your own event such as a bake sale, car boot sale or take part in our organised events and raise vital funds for HARP. become a volunteer: either in our charity shops, sorting donations and serving customers, or with our frontline services at The Bradbury Centre, where volunteers provide essential support to people who are homeless in Southend. If you have an idea for how you’d like to help HARP, or an idea for a fundraising event, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
How can I help people begging on the streets?It's important to know the facts and be properly informed: simply put, not all people who beg are homeless, and not all homeless people beg. Research overwhelmingly shows that the majority of people who beg do so to support addictions to drugs and alcohol, so our advice would be to support a charity like HARP directly. With more support, we can be there for more people when they need us. Everyone we work with is assessed and is either homeless or at risk of becoming homeless at the point they come to us for help. So, by donating to HARP, you can be assured that your money is being used to support those in the most need. Better still, if you can set up a small regular gift, you know that you'll be contributing to the long term sustainability of our services.
Do you charge homeless people for meals?Any rough sleeper who comes to our Bradbury Day Centre in York Road is able to have breakfast completely free of charge, and we never turn away anyone in need. HARP's breakfast sessions are designed to enable our staff to gradually build a relationship with long-term rough sleepers. It can take up to three months to achieve a level of trust that gently encourages rough sleepers to access HARP’s range of services, helping them to come in off the street and begin the journey towards beating homelessness for good. Anyone who is able to is asked to make a small contribution towards the costs of their lunch at the Bradbury Day Centre. However, those who are not able to make this small contribution are of course still able to eat. Between April 2018 and March 2019, we served 372 lunches at the Bradbury Day Centre. 45% of people were able to make a contribution, with 55% of people unable to pay. Therefore, 55% of lunches were given free of charge. For some service users, an important part of recovery can be learning how to budget and being responsible for your finances. We believe that asking for a small contribution towards the costs of lunch helps people take responsibility for their personal budget. Anyone sleeping rough in Southend can also request a night pack completely free of charge when they visit The Bradbury Centre at breakfast or lunchtime. This ensures they do not go hungry overnight. Furthermore, we also provide free food parcels to non-HARP residents of Southend who are in need.
Are pets or dogs allowed at HARP?Dogs are welcome at our Day Centre, where we have a waterproof, covered dog crate which dog owners can safely keep their dogs in while they have a meal, shower, attend a group or have a meeting with HARP staff to address their situation. As a general rule, pets of any kind aren’t allowed in our accommodation. However, we are flexible, so if there is a real need house a dog owner and no other options, we may be able to relax this rule for a short time. If we do accept a dog into a property, we have to ensure we go through a number of checks to make sure the arrangement is safe and acceptable our other service users, staff and volunteers. Any dogs that are accepted to live at HARP need to be in good health and flea free. We work with The Dogs Trust’s Hope Project, to help our service users to access free veterinary treatment for the animal including flea, worm treatment and other vaccinations. We are also able provide free dog coats, leads, toys and chews where needed.
Does immigration put a strain on HARP's services?Contrary to some reports in the press, people new to the country do not make up any significant portion of the single homeless people coming to HARP for help. In fact, between April 2019 and March 2020, of the 1,221 people using our services, 1,066 (87%) classed themselves as British.
Can you get benefits or vote if you are homeless?Contrary to popular belief, you can access benefits and vote if you are homeless in Southend. At HARP, a key part of our service is advising local homeless people on the benefits they are entitled to, and helping them to navigate the process for application through our excellent links with Southend Job Centre Plus. If someone is currently rough sleeping, they can use our Bradbury Day Centre address as a care of address to help them claim benefits. Politics doesn’t appeal to everyone; however it does have an impact on all of our lives. Registering to vote can be an important first step to financial recovery, giving people the opportunity to increase their credit score. With improved credit scores, they will be more likely to be accepted for tenancy, which in turn will improve the likelihood of gaining employment. During the 2017 General Election, we encouraged our service users to register to vote, using the Bradbury Day Centre as their registered address if needed. This is something we will strive to offer in future local and national elections.
Do London Boroughs send their rough sleepers to Southend?Based on our experience of homeless people presenting themselves at The Bradbury Centre, there is no evidence that other councils are 'sending' homeless people to Southend. For example, our statistics show that only 3% of the those who sought support from HARP between April 2022 and February 2023 were from a London borough. However, if someone comes to us and we assess that they are in need, we will help them regardless of where they are from. HARP is currently the only comprehensive service for single homeless people near Southend, and it is therefore to be expected that people will come from other areas in south Essex for help – particularly from Basildon, Rayleigh and other towns nearby.
Why do you have paid staff and how much are they paid?Like most charities, we employ skilled, experienced, professional people to make sure that HARP runs efficiently and effectively, to enable more homeless people to turn their lives around. These paid staff work alongside our unpaid volunteers, who provide vital frontline support for local homeless people, amongst other roles. We have around five volunteers for every four paid members of staff, a ratio that is incredibly important to the identity of HARP. Without the support of so many volunteers, quite simply HARP would not be able to operate. But it would also not be possible for HARP to provide all the services that we do if we relied solely on unpaid volunteers. HARP’s Board of Trustees is made up of volunteers who give their time for free. There has been a lot of negative press over recent years about charity CEOs, some of whom are reported to be paid upwards of £200k per year. No-one at HARP earns anything like that figure. In fact, we use the National Joint Council pay scales as a guide for paying all our staff, including senior managers and our CEO, which is recognised as a responsible guide for charitable and voluntary sector salaries. Like all charities, our accounts are audited each year by independent external auditors, and are published on the Charity Commission's website as well as at Companies House and with the Social Housing Regulator.
How much of my donation will be spent on helping homeless people?In the year ending March 31st 2021, 96% of our expenditure was on "Charitable Activities" and 4% was spent on "Fundraising Costs". Of the money spent on Fundraising, we see at least a 3:1 return on investment. HARP's annual accounts are independently audited every year and filed with the Charity Commission. You can view HARP's accounts on the Charity Commission website by searching for 'Homeless Action Resource Project'.
I’ve got some items to donate, where should I take them?Thank you for thinking of HARP! The place to take donations really depends on the items. If you are donating food or toiletries, please take these to the Bradbury Centre on York Road. If you wish to donate furniture, please book a collection online and a member of our team will contact you to discuss the donation and make arrangements for collection. If you are donating any other items, such as clothing, electrical goods, books or records, please take them to any of our Charity Shops where our staff are trained to sort through the goods to ensure that those which are needed by our service users are put to one side and other items are sold on the shop floor, with all proceeds going to HARP. You can find all the relevant addresses, phone numbers and opening hours here.
How is HARP funded?HARP is funded through a combination of: Income from our frontline services, including Housing Benefit Grants and contracts Voluntary donations from the public Funds raised from our shops
Does HARP make a profit?HARP is a not-for-profit organisation. This means that our purpose is not to seek a profit, but to provide a quality service for homeless people and those at risk of homelessness in Southend. Any surplus that we make (the difference between what we receive in income each year and our total annual running costs) is retained by the charity to be spent in a future year on furthering our services for homeless people. For more information on this, please see the FAQ “What are reserves and why does HARP have them?” below. HARP’s Board of Trustees are all unpaid volunteers, and Trustees and members of staff do not get any bonuses, dividends, or assets.
What are reserves and why does HARP have them?Simply put, reserves are funds put aside by a charity to ensure they have enough money to cover any sudden drop in income. For example, HARP houses over 200 people every night. If, for some unforeseen reason, we were unable to pay essential bills such as rent for our properties, up to 200 people could be at instant risk of homelessness. Therefore, we make sure we have reserves to ensure we can get through such a scenario without impacting on our service users or other stakeholders. For this reason, the Charity Commission expects all charities to retain levels of reserves which are adequate and appropriate to that charity’s own circumstances.