Homeless woman speaks as council set to remove belongings from doorways

  • Watch Richard Payne's report


A Weston-super-Mare woman who has been homeless for the past 20 years says she has lost "everything" but the shoes on her feet after her belongings disappeared.

Chrissy is now staying in temporary accommodation, but she has been homeless on and off for two decades.

She told ITV News she has nothing but a small rucksack and the shoes on her feet after her belongings went missing from the tent she was staying at in the North Somerset town.

It comes as North Somerset Council has launched a new "clearance protocol" which will see homeless people's belongings removed from doorways in a bid to tidy up the town.

A three-hour warning will be put on belongings left behind before the council takes them away.

Chrissy has been homeless on and off for two decades.

Some items - deemed unsafe or unsanitary - may be destroyed immediately but the majority will be stored for two weeks before they are thrown away.

The council's executive member for neighbourhoods and community services Mike Solomon told ITV News the policy is not an initiative against rough sleepers but about "striking a balance" between their needs and "how the public see our high streets".

He added: "Most of the homeless we have - and we don't have many, I believe it's under 10 - they could be housed.

"There's only a couple out of area that we wouldn't house, the others could be housed but they choose, because of their style of life, that they want to stay on the streets.

"Now if that's going to happen then we have to find the balance between keeping areas tidy, keeping it free of any harmful substances and that sort of thing. We have to strike a balance somewhere."

Chrissy told ITV News she arrived back to the tent she called home to find "nothing" and then struggled to find out who had taken her belongings.

She said: "You don't know if they're at the council, then you go to the council and there's no trace of any of your stuff there - so you're back to square one with nothing."

She said she has lost paperwork, her ID, clothes and tents - which she has never been able to track down.

Somewhere To Go is a project supporting homeless people in the town. Its treasurer and trustee Barry Edwards told ITV News the policy is an "emotive" one.

The council says it is about "striking a balance" between the needs of homeless people and "how the public see our high streets".

"It's a very difficult one," he said. "I can understand the emotion behind it."

"No one wants to think that everyone's personal possessions are going to be taken and possibly destroyed, but the reality of it is that the majority of possessions that are left in shop doorways overnight are just bedding. There's very little of personal possessions there.

"Very often they are there for weeks, sometimes months, with no one doing anything about it and no one sleeping there.

"The local council have a duty not just to the people that are using those doorways but also to the rest of the town, to make the town not look like a tip, which is what it does look like sometimes.

"It is very emotive and it's not an easy one to work out if it's the right thing or the wrong thing to do."