CHESS Homeless CEO Rob Saggs hopes a ground-breaking meeting between more than 120 influential Essex dignitaries will help ease the county’s spiraling housing crisis.

Those gathered at Wivenhoe House for the inaugural North Essex Councils (NEC) Housing Summit 2024 on February 15 discussed ways to make an impact nationally by addressing issues locally.

Experts from Braintree, Chelmsford, Colchester, Epping Forest, Harlow, Maldon, Tendring and Uttlesford local authorities agreed that improved collaboration between councils will be vital moving forward.

Mr Saggs, who is in charge of an Essex charity which provided temporary accommodation to 153 vulnerable people in the year to April 2023, was at the summit to share his insight.

He was heartened to hear about many innovative projects all ready in place in Essex but called for all stakeholders to renew their commitment to solving the problems, and added: “There is a housing crisis.

“Homelessness is at its highest for a long time with thousands in temporary accommodation, which is costing local authorities billions. So more needs to be done.

“In England, where families with children are living in B&Bs due to a lack of suitable accommodation, people’s poor health is going to spiral out of control, causing another strain on the NHS.

“The average age at death of those who are long-term homeless in England or Wales is 45 years for men and 43 for women. In the general population those life expectancies are 76 and 81, respectively.

“Here at CHESS we are always trying to do our bit and make a positive impact, and we are currently fundraising for an ambitious project to build 24 new modular homes for homeless adults.

“Homelessness should not be something that we are struggling with in this country but cutting support for third-sector organisations like ours will only cost more in the longer term.”

Pictured left-to-right: CHESS Homeless Chair of Trustees Michelle Brown and CEO Rob Saggs with special guests HM Lord-Lieutenant of Essex Jennifer Tolhurst and High Sherriff of Essex Charles Bishop at a showcase for the Turning Point project at Boreham House in February 2024

CHESS is planning to build 24 new self-contained units at an existing facility in Chelmsford for rough sleepers and some of Essex’s most vulnerable residents.

The ‘Turning Point’ project now only needs a commitment of £248,000 by mid-March 2024 to reach its £2.7million target (listen to Rob Saggs talk about the project on BBC Essex radio by clicking here).

The development will rely on renewable energy sources and feature homes tailored for those with disabilities and serious health conditions.

More than half of funding is from the government’s Single Homelessness Accommodation Programme (SHAP) and is dependent on the facility opening by March 2025.

If you or your company would like to make a donation, or if you would like more information, please call CHESS Homeless on 01245 281104 or email [email protected]