Purge on possessions of St Albans street sleepers

A rough sleeper's possessions outside Marks and Spencer, St Albans.

A rough sleeper's possessions outside Marks and Spencer, St Albans. - Credit: Archant

Homeless activists in St Albans have expressed their deep concerns that rough sleepers in the city are having their possessions destroyed.

With the homeless crisis at an all-time high across the UK, more and more people are choosing St Albans as a safe place to bed down due to the available services.

However, members of the public and homeless people claim many possessions of street sleepers such as flasks, blankets and torches donated by generous market-goers have been thrown away, sometimes without any warning.

Street sleeper Martin Collard said he left his things in Lamb Alley to go somewhere in town and when he got back, it had all been taken away and destroyed. Martin said: “I left stuff there and I went back about six o’clock and all my stuff had gone.

“I was panicking - it was cold and the weather has not been too great. I now carry everything with me.

“Some of my friends have had a letter from the council saying they will remove their things within a certain time frame and then thrown their belongings away.”

Sharon Linney member of the Facebook group St Albans Action for Homeless Friends said: “We go out on a Friday and do a soup run. The people we have given heavy duty sleeping bags have had them taken away by the council.

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“I know there is Open Door and Centre 33 and both are very good. “However, they are not 24/7 and not everyone can or wants to access them.

“It really upsets me that they are having their personal things removed. How are they supposed to keep warm that night?

“It’s like someone picking up your home and taking it away. They have got no empathy.”

A spokesperson for St Albans district council said: “The council tries to be sensitive to the needs of people sleeping rough and we work with our partners to make sure there is help for people who are homeless.

“But we know that people sometimes have complex needs. We don’t have a policy of taking people’s possessions.

“That’s not to say that we won’t move items if we feel there is a need to do so, for example if we have safety concerns, or are aware the person has accommodation.

“We also normally give a warning and will store items for a number of days.”