CENS has been supporting the homeless for over 35 years, providing emergency accommodation across Essex and Suffolk, along with help and advice to enable residents to secure permanent housing. Covid-19 has massively impacted many charitable organisations and we have been extremely hard hit, having had to close our doors in March 2020 due to our accommodation being non-compliant with Covid-19 guidelines.

We know that the long-term effects of the pandemic will undoubtedly lead to greater numbers of people finding themselves homeless – we currently have to turn away between 5 and 10 referrals every day and we fear that number is going to significantly increase as time goes on.

Fortunately, we are adapting and progressing and thanks to a significant amount of grant funding towards the project, including a £112,000 National Lottery Community Grant and £15,000 from Catalyst, we are undergoing a huge refurbishment project which will enable us to be Covid-compliant and reopen our doors to the most vulnerable in society in May.

Here are some of the improvements we are in the process of making:

  • We are changing our name from Colchester Emergency Night Shelter to Colchester Engagement & Next Steps – but you can still call us CENS! We feel the new name better represents our holistic approach to homelessness. We offer so much more than a meal and a bed … but more of that later.
  • We are adapting our rooms. Our shelter currently has 20 beds, some of which are twins and all with shared facilities. The accommodation will be modified to offer 17 single occupancy rooms, all with their own shower room facilities. This will not only make the accommodation Covid-compliant, but will also offer more privacy and dignity for our residents as they take their first steps towards independent living.
  • More than a bed and a meal. Being open during the daytime will allow us to offer a much greater level of support. Many of our residents have complex needs including mental and physical health issues, history of substance abuse, learning difficulties and offending histories. The additional support we will be able to offer, such as teaching life skills, tailored assistance and learning programs will provide an holistic wraparound care experience, helping prepare our residents for the next steps. There will be volunteering opportunities available once we are open
  • Creating a brand new health and wellbeing room to offer much-needed support for the mental and physical issues facing our residents. We hope to be able to introduce a range of treatments and therapies to help our residents cope with life once outside the safety of the shelter.
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