A ROUGH sleeper was given two hours to move their belongings or see them thrown out by Southend Council...on World Homeless Day.

On the day designated to draw attention to the needs of homeless people and ways those in need of help can be supported locally, Southend Council left notes on one rough sleeper's belongings giving a deadline for them to be moved or they would be thrown out.

The notice states: “These items have been identified as being left unattended.

“Please be aware you do not have permission to store these items here.

“If items are not removed within two hours they will be considered to be waste and will be removed for disposal by Southend Council.

“It will not be possible to store and / or return these items after they have been removed for disposal.”

Zoey Smith, 35, co-founder of One Love Soup Kitchen in Southend said: “I think what the council is doing is disgusting and makes me so angry.

“Especially on World Homeless Day, the council should be helping these people and not treating them like this.

“These people need help and support.

“Two hours is not long enough for people to move their items and is completely inappropriate.

“The homeless people and rough sleepers could be at appointments to get help or getting food.

“Some of the people we help came to us with the notices.

“We were so angry when we saw the notices and couldn’t quite believe it.

“I know last year we had reports the council was removing tents and we made a fuss and the council started treating homeless people better. Our volunteers are also very angry about what has happened.”

A spokesman for Southend Council said: “It is probably most important to stress that we work very hard to prevent people from becoming homeless in the first instance, and once homeless do all we can to provide accommodation.

“Notices for unattended items being left in public areas has been an issue for the borough for some time and needed addressing, for a number of reasons, including safety and security.”

Ian Gilbert, Leader of the Council, said “Our housing team works hard to help people at risk of becoming homeless, offering alternative accommodation, support and advice. Rough sleeping is very much the extreme end of homelessness and we work closely with our partner agencies, such as HARP, Peabody and STARS, commissioning specific projects and services to get those living on the streets the help and support they need. Through South Essex Homes, we commission over 100 units of temporary accommodation.

“We are aware, like most areas within the UK, there is a housing shortage in Southend-on-Sea, which is why the new administration has budgeted £4.3 million to acquire new council housing to ease the pressure on our housing waiting lists. The first houses will be ready to move into by the end of the year.”