Exclusive by Lola Johnson
ROUGH sleepers’ vital possessions are being taken away by council officials without their permission, we have learned.
Some vulnerable homeless people have told us of the removal of their treasured items when they are not around – and bedding to keep them warm in the cold.
One distressed rough sleeper said: ‘They took all my bedding, my clothes, toiletries, my ID and irreplaceable pictures of my 10-year-old daughter.’
Another said: “It was just after Christmas when I found out they had thrown all my stuff away.
“All my stuff was left on the Primark ramp. Presents that I got, clothes – all my life basically. Everything was gone.
“I had to go to the hospital. All I had when I came back was literally the clothes that I was wearing.”
Removed items in the cold winter months include duvets, sleeping bags, winter coats and bedding.
Coventry City Council responded to our questions by saying: ‘Partner agencies have set up winter night shelters across the city centre where there are places for people to stay; there are regular visits to street sleepers with offers of help; and a severe weather protocol is in place in Coventry to help manage the wellbeing of people on the street – particularly in colder conditions.
“At the same time there are some people that are based outside city centre shops in the daytime who ask for money from city centre shoppers/visitors and then during the evening leave bedding, discarded food and more dangerous material unattended overnight. This has included discarded syringes which obviously pose a serious hazard to both staff and the public.
“In these situations where it has been necessary to protect members of the public, items have been removed and stored – for the welfare of other people in the city centre – at a venue that is staffed 24 hours a day and where items can be collected.”
Despite the council’s claim, rough sleepers we spoke with denied the council’s syringes claim.
They add they are often not told that they can collect their items, let alone where from. The council declined to answer our questions on this.
One rough sleeper said: “They said to me that I could go to the council depot to pick it up but, obviously, I was ill in hospital. I had no-one to get it for me, and they said it was disposed of.
“This is the second or third time they have removed my stuff.”
The council added: ‘We recognise that any approach we take is likely to be polarising as there will be those demanding we take action and those who think we should do nothing but only offer support. The key is to channel that support in the most effective way.”