Southend Council took the extraordinary measure of supplying alcohol to those most at risk of alcohol withdrawal during the height of lockdown.

Documents show the council’s credit card was used to pay more than £120 in alcohol purchases in June for rough sleepers.

It comes as an all out effort to find accommodation for rough sleepers during the Covid-19 pandemic led to more than 100 people finding permanent homes.

After housing 138 rough sleepers into temporary accommodation throughout lockdown, and working with charities and partner agencies to provide meals, medicines, clothing and support, thoughts immediately turned to the ongoing support following the easing of restrictions.

Positively, more than 80 percent of former rough sleepers are in more permanent tenancies with ongoing support in place.

Ian Gilbert, leader of the council with a responsibility for housing, said: “The purchase of alcohol was only undertaken for those who had been medically assessed as alcohol dependent.

“This was done to ensure isolation whilst they were awaiting results of any Covid tests. “Cutting alcohol use from dependent levels of drinking to no alcohol whatsoever can cause fatal withdrawal, so when one of the B&Bs had to go into lockdown due to a suspected Covid infection, we had to make a decision to supply alcohol or risk individuals dying from the withdrawal.

“It was a straightforward decision that the minimal costs spent far outweighed the risks that these individuals faced.”

Gary Turner, service operations director for Harp, Southend’s homeless charity said: “Not all people who are homeless are alcohol dependent but for those who are the journey to overcoming homelessness can be even more complex.

“We work closely with specialist agencies to ensure our residents get the support and treatment they need. In some cases, this may include ensuring that someone who is alcohol dependent can access alcohol in order to avoid the potentially fatal effects of sudden withdrawal.”

The council also paid more than £350 for mobile phones and mobile credit top ups.

Mr Gilbert said: “The council provided mobile phone top ups for rough sleepers in temporary accommodation as they were unable to leave their B&Bs.

“Mobile phones are a vital resource for rough sleepers and it was essential they were able to maintain their communications with the various services supporting them throughout the lockdown.”

If you are concerned about a particular rough sleeper, who is over 18, visit or if under 18, call 999.