Weston-super-Mare's homeless are treated 'worse than criminals'
PUBLISHED: 07:00 15 January 2018
Homelessness in Weston-super-Mare is on the rise in the coldest part of the year - and good Samaritans who have been providing food and blankets to rough sleepers have criticised authorities for not doing enough.
Five men living in freezing weather conditions on Weston seafront are being treated ‘worse than criminals’ according to volunteers who have stepped in to help over the past few weeks.
Homelessness has steadily worsened in Weston, and those sleeping rough are suffering with hypothermia and judgement from some passers-by.
One man, who has been homeless for six months following the introduction of universal credit, said: “It has been horrendous but having people visit and help me has massively changed things.
“It gives me morale and gives me a boost and a want to keep fighting on.”
Elsie Poynton, aged 77, made a plea for action on social media at the weekend, leading to hundreds of people offering blankets, hot water bottles, drinks and food to those in need.
She said: “If a dog was left here there would be an outcry but we can leave humans to suffer and freeze. This truly is a human disgrace.
“Criminals get a better life with three meals a day and a roof over their head.”
Valerie Donegan, aged 60, is ‘disgusted’ by the lack of night provisions for the homeless and has encouraged volunteers to join her in daily support trips around the town.
She added: “The council is not doing enough to help these people.”
The group is appealing to the council to open a night shelter during the colder months, with support from councillors James Clayton and Mike Bell.
Cllr Bell said homelessness has risen by a third in North Somerset in 12 months and the district’s rates are significantly higher than South Gloucestershire and Sedgemoor.
Meanwhile, Cllr Clayton has accused the council of ‘brushing (homelessness) off’ as begging.
He added: “Homelessness is a growing problem in Weston as it is nationally and the Government and council needs to do more to address this issue.
“A night shelter is needed so the homeless do not freeze to death. But in the long term the council needs to look into what they can do as an authority to address this issue.”
Cllr Dawn Payne, who is responsible for adult social services, said she was ‘fully aware’ there is no shelter and said the council is working with someone who has set one up in Bristol.
Peter, aged 67, who is living in the seafront shelter, was thrown out of his flat five weeks ago and has said it has been a ‘horrific’ winter.
He has been taken to hospital twice in the past two weeks for hypothermia and has had his foot treated by volunteer nurses after getting an ulcer.
He added: “I have just been trying to put more and more clothes on, I am frozen.”