The Open Road SOS Bus, which is normally found on Colchester High Street, made its debut on Christmas Tree Island in Clacton last Friday to offer support to local residents who are homeless, at risk of homeless, street drinking or just in need of local support services.
Organised in partnership with SHELLS (Shelter & Health Enlisting Local Support) the bus trip was a trial run to see how useful the service might be, consequently there was no promotion done in advance.
Mark Shorter, from the north east Essex Clinical Commissioning Group, who helped to organise the visit explained: “We had no idea how successful this would be, and I was a little apprehensive, however over 30 people accessed the bus for support during the 5 hours the bus was there, which was really encouraging.”
On board the bus was representation from Open Road, the SUMMIT health advocate, an EPUT mental health nurse and social prescribers from Community Voluntary Services Tendring. The intention is for the bus to have more organisations joining in the future to offer nursing, housing, and benefit support. As well as being able to directly assist residents, the organisations can signpost people to the most appropriate local service.
So positive was the visit, that the bus returned to Clacton today. Steve Wood, Welfare Area Manager for Open Road said “This is only the second week that the SOS bus has been here and although we did tell people in advance that we were coming, the turnout has been amazing.
More than double the number of residents from last week which clearly shows there is a strong need for this service. We want to do all we can to support residents with health and housing issues; ideally assisting them before they reach crisis point”.
For this reason, the bus will be returning to Clacton in the new year – same time (Friday 10am to 3pm) same place (Christmas Tree Island)!