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Chelmsford CHESS - Christian Charity helping homeless people

Ahead of this Chelmsford CHESS' fundraising 'Sleep-Out' at St John's Church, Moulsham Street, Chelmsford, I was joined in the studio by Trustee David Hodgkinson to talk about the Charity and the help that it offers to homeless people in today's society.

Chelmsford CHESS seeks to reflect Christ's love by relieving hardship and distress amongst the single homeless in Chelmsford and Essex through:

  • the provision of temporary accommodation for homeless adults
  • Day Centre activities meeting users' essential needs
  • the opportunity of progress towards a more settled way of life
  • active promotion of a sense of security and self-worth
  • respect for the dignity of all

We believe that everyone is of equal worth and equally deserving of respect, whatever their background, history or circumstances. We also believe that we are called to help all adults in Chelmsford and the surrounding areas who are suffering through homelessness or similar problems. Where we have the skills and resources to do so, we will strive to meet their genuine needs irrespective of religion, race, gender, sexual orientation or disability.

This attitude is based on the example given to us by Jesus Christ. Whilst not everyone who serves CHESS is a Christian or a member of another faith, we all do our best to follow the same approach to others.

In the early 1990s Churches Together in Chelmsford ("CTiC") became concerned about the plight of homeless people in the Chelmsford area. Its first response was to organise a soup run; local Christians would prepare soup and take it to distribution points in Chelmsford to hand out to those living on the streets.

Harsh winters then caused further worries. During the winter months local churches would take it in turn to open their halls for a week at a time so homeless people could sleep there at night. Christian volunteers would collect homeless people from the centre of town in the evening and take them to the relevant church hall for the night. Volunteers from each church would look after the residents' comfort and safety.

It became clear that the need for shelter was not restricted to the winter months. CHESS opened its Night Shelter in the middle 1990s. Since the beginning of this century it has acquired an Annexe to the Shelter, move-on houses and a Day Centre.

Today CHESS is still supported by CTiC and many of the churches in Chelmsford and the surrounding area. Most of our trustees and volunteers are drawn from their congregations. Prayers are offered at the Day Centre every Monday morning.

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.

Contacting us

If you need our help please contact us in person or by telephone.

General contact details are shown below.

Day Centre

St Mark's Hall
Cottage Place

Telephone number:
01245 350792

Opening hours:
Monday - Friday: 10 am - 4 pm
Saturday: 10.30 am - 3 pm

The Day Centre Manager and Clothes Distribution Centre can be contacted via the Day Centre. The office may be manned outside the times mentioned above. When the office is not manned you can leave a message on the answering machine.

The Assistant Support Manager and the Volunteer Office are also based at the Day Centre but with a different telephone number (01245 284878). When the office is not manned you can leave a message on the answering machine.

Night Shelter

23-24 George Street

Telephone number:
01245 252410

Open for visitors:
Daily: 7.30 am - 8.30 am and 8 pm - 9 pm

The office is usually manned in the mornings, Monday to Friday, but if you intend calling in person please telephone in advance to make sure that there will be someone there to receive you.

The Night Accommodation Manager and the Treasurer can be contacted via the Night Shelter. When the office is not manned you can leave a message on the answering machine.

General enquiries

General enquiries should be addressed to us at the Night Shelter.

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