Authorities in Worthing have responded to concerns that the numbers of homeless people in the town centre are rising.
Several residents approached the Herald regarding rough sleepers camped outside the former Poundland store in Montague Street, Laura Ashley near Montague Place and Tesco Express in Chapel Road, claiming numbers of people sleeping rough had increased in recent weeks.
Sue Stevens from the charity Turning Tides, formerly Worthing Churches Homeless Project, said the number of rough sleepers in Worthing known to them was actually in the low twenties, down from 35 in the official count last October.
However, she said: “We believe that with the camps set up in the town by the old Poundland store and Laura Ashley it is more that the rough sleeping community are more visible to many people, especially as it is a busy time of year for shopping.
“The clients rough sleeping there report they have chosen places where there are CCTV cameras for their own safety.”
While she acknowleged seeing people living on the streets was ‘very distressing for everyone in our community’, they had complex needs which meant some turned down support like accomodation.
Among the support the charity offers is a shelter in Lyndhurst Road, Worthing, which Sue attributed the decrease in numbers to.
Worthing Borough Council has an outreach team to connect those on the streets to services and support and also works with partners like police to deal with the antisocial behaviour associated with some in the street community, like substance misuse, drug dealing and public urination.
Councillor Heather Mercer, cabinet member for customer services, said: “We appreciate that a small minority of rough sleepers are currently very visible in prominent locations, leading to concerns from those living, working and visiting Worthing. However it is important to note the majority of those sleeping rough in our town do not exhibit these behaviours.”
Residents who wanted to help were advised to buy homeless people food or drink rather than giving them money, or donate to homeless charities directly.
Those concerned about a particular rough sleeper can report the details to Streetlink on streetlink.org.uk or 0300 500 0914, which is passed on to the council’s outreach team.