3rd Dec, 2016

Homeless sleeping rough 'driving customers away'

Leamington Editorial 22nd Sep, 2016 Updated: 28th Oct, 2016

SHOPKEEPERS have hit out at homeless people ‘sleeping on their doorsteps’ – saying they are driving customers away.

The Parade in Leamington boasts some of the town’s most popular shops and sees thousands of visitors each year.

But businesses say customers are being put off by rough sleepers who are using shop doorways to bed down each evening.

Many also stay there during the day or use the space as somewhere to leave their bedding.

The manager of one of the affected shops told the Observer: “Homeless people being outside puts people off. When they are there some of the customers get scared.

“There is one homeless lady who stands outside the shop and shouts out threatening to kill people. Our company aren’t happy about the situation and I know a lot of other shops aren’t either, but what can we do?

“It should be up to the council or police to help them and move them on. They’re making the town look awful.“

Another man, who worked in the town for 30 years, got in touch with the Observer to see what was being done.

He said: “There always seemed to be a bit of a problem with homeless people but it’s becoming more obvious now. It doesn’t give a good impression of the town and the longer we let it just go on, the more of a problem it’s going to become.

“Homelessness is clearly a deep-rooted issue and there’s no quick fix, but by ignoring it, it’s not going to improve itself.”

Warwick District Council is currently completing a homelessness review and says it is working with the likes of Warwickshire Police, The Salvation Army, Helping Hands and the Leamington Night Shelter to help those sleeping rough.

But their job has been made harder by the fact the number of hostel spaces has been halved by the county council -leaving just 60 beds in the district.

Head of housing, Andy Thompson said: “We offer a drop in service four days per week for people with housing problems and we deliver this service out in the community regularly.

“The Homeless Strategy is under review and we are currently seeking views from the public about the main issues and ideas people have for resolving them. We encourage people to share their views on the council’s website.”

And Sgt Alison Wiggin of Warwickshire Police added: “Leamington has a number of individuals who sleep rough in doorways and in public areas.

“Since the beginning of August, we have had eight incidents where members of the public have reported concerns over people sleeping rough in the town centre.

“Sleeping rough is not an offence and as such police have very limited powers. We try to work with our partners and charities to get these people help.

“They are viewed as vulnerable through circumstance and often have underlying health issues for which they need support.”

Visit www.warwickdc.gov.uk to complete the homelessness survey.