Homeless people in Stoke-on-Trent claim they are being branded “dogs” and bullied by authorities for no reason, a StaffsLive investigation has revealed.
People sleeping rough on the city’s streets say Staffordshire Police and Stoke-on-Trent City Council are failing to help resolve the problem of homelessness.
We interviewed a number of people living on the streets after the city council unveiled its Homelessness Strategy 2016 – 2020.
And they painted a very different picture about the problem, branding police “bullyboys” for the way they are treated.
Garry Simpson, 37, has been struggling on the streets for more than 20 years in the Stoke-on-Trent area.
He told StaffsLive: “I’ve put it to the police, as a homeless person, and asked them to tell me where I can go and sit. But nobody can tell me where I can sit safely where I won’t get arrested.
“I’ve been here 20 years now and nothing has changed. It’s getting worse.
“If you’re sat down somewhere and you look like you’re homeless, you’re going to get arrested.
“It’s our word against theirs.
“You’re a homeless person with no money and no phone.
“They give you a phone number to help the situation, but nobody gives you a phone. It’s an endless cycle.
“There’s plenty of rundown buildings that can be put to some use that can be contributed to help in some way to resolve it.
“I was in a hostel last year and worked with the manager to got some steps forward to help people and ended up homeless because of situations.
“The hostel has gone backwards and it’s lot worse now.”
Stefan Ball is another who has been sleeping rough in Stoke for years.
He said: “Police have said to me ‘the reason why people like you don’t succeed in this world is because you are homeless dogs’.
“I can’t say anything because he’s above me, he’s authority.
“If you get seen putting your hand in your pocket, I get locked up.
“What’s the difference between you sitting on the street and me sitting on the street?”
Glyn and Jeanette Jackson, 55, from Chell Heath, Stoke-on-Trent, run the homeless charity ‘Help for the Homeless’.
Glyn said: “The council should build for the homeless. They need to prepare services for the guys to get them back into work.
“We don’t speak to the police; they just arrest our guys for nothing.
“They look for excuses to arrest them – it’s bullyboy tactics.”
Garry added: “At the ‘Help for the Homeless’ we feel like we are part of society.
“It’s comfortable and relaxed and we are not on edge or scared that we will be arrested.”
Cllr Sue Scott, the strategic manager for high risk lifestyles at Stoke-on-Trent City Council, said: “The police should only get involved if there is evidence of anti-social behaviour in the city.
“It’s about large groups who are drinking alcohol in the streets.
“Sometimes it can be difficult for the police to know if they are homeless or not.
“The two main issues are homeless people and anti-social behaviour. The hard part is finding out which of those people are homeless or normal.”
A Staffordshire Police spokesperson told StaffsLive: “We only intervene if there is a report of criminal activity.
“If we come across a rough sleeper, we would refer them to the social services.
“We can be requested via shop owner or the public if they are causing a nuisance, we will intervene and suitable measures will be taken. This is usually if they are causing physical harm or criminal damage.”
The city council’s Homelessness Strategy explains how the criminal justice sector, housing sector and health sector will attempt to work together in an effort to reduce homelessness in North Staffordshire.
The strategy promises to implement a “resettlement pathway” for people who leave prison, provide training and guidance under the Care Act relating to people with multiple needs.
It also says it will give people who are vulnerable and at risk of street homelessness a greater priority on the housing register.
(Additional reporting by Max McLellan)
(Pictures by Sarah Staff)