The term ‘homeless shelter’ can conjure all sorts of stereotypes about our service and the people who use it. Here are 7 little-known facts to help clear up the misconceptions
#1 You can stay 1 night as an emergency
At CENS, we offer residents the opportunity to stay here for 28 nights. This gives them the chance to re-group; get the help they need and start looking forward. In that time, if more permanent accommodation becomes available, we can extend their stay for the interim.
#2 You can turn up at the front door to get a room
There’s no queuing up at the door for a room anymore. We have a referral process where people and their situation are assessed before they’re able to stay here. This helps to ensure we are the right service for them. We do often have a waiting list, but we stay in touch over the phone until a room becomes available.
#3 CENS is full of drink and drugs
We want to make CENS a safe and comfortable place to stay for everyone. Therefore, we have a zero-tolerance policy on drugs and alcohol. Everyone who stays with us is regularly drug tested and breathalysed before they enter the building. We understand that residents suffering with substance misuse issues need help so we work closely with Open Road and Essex Arc to ensure that anyone struggling with abstinence is supported.
#4 Residents sleep in dorms in dirty conditions
We have 15 self-contained bedrooms with ensuites. As a part of their agreement to stay at CENS, residents must keep these in a clean condition. Staff do room checks every day to ensure standards are kept high!
#5 People beg on the streets to pay CENS service charge
Everyone who stays at CENS is either working or in receipt of benefits. We check to ensure they can afford the £4 a night to stay and that they are willing and able to do this. We would never put someone in a position where they had to beg to afford to sleep here. If a resident is struggling to pay the service charge, we work with them to find funding from other agencies.
#6 We serve tins of soup for dinner
We pride ourselves on providing a decent hot meal every evening. We have a kitchen co-ordinator who creates a nutritious weekly menu. The delivery from FareShare means that the residents get a variety of delicious dinners every week. We also accommodate for residents who have allergies or can’t eat certain foods for religious reasons.
#7 After CENS, residents go back to sleeping on the streets
Our aim is to ensure that everyone who comes to CENS finds more permanent accommodation. We work closely with supported living agencies such as Sanctuary, Nacro, Peabody, Emmaus and the YMCA to give residents the best chance of keeping from being street homeless.
We also have Al’s Annexe, which is our move-on accommodation. It houses four residents for six months, which gives them the chance to find work and save up for a private rent deposit. And, although they’re hard to find, we also have links with private landlords who charge affordable rent.