Chesterfield council and police comment about situation on New Beetwell Street
The leader of Chesterfield Borough Council has said there is 'no reason' for anyone to be sleeping rough on the town's streets.
Councillor Tricia Gilby made the comment after pictures emerged of people tucked up in sleeping bags on New Beetwell Street surrounded by rubbish.
Scores of residents have contacted the Derbyshire Times to voice concern about the situation - with many saying they feel 'very intimidated' while waiting for buses along the road and others expressing sadness for the individuals involved.
Meanwhile, people have been seen sleeping on the streets in other parts of the town, including in the doorways of the vacant Victoria Centre and Chesterfield Hotel buildings.
Coun Gilby told the Derbyshire Times: "There is no reason for anyone to be sleeping rough on the streets of Chesterfield as we now have a daily night shelter in the town to ensure people wanting help can access the support they need.
"The night shelter is being run by local churches and other voluntary groups on a rotating basis each night. Chesterfield Borough Council has contributed Â£25,000 to help run them, with our neighbouring councils in North East Derbyshire and Bolsover doing the same."
The winter night shelter project is being led by Derby City Mission and will run until the end of March.
For more information about the project, people should visit homeless charity Pathways at 120 Saltergate or call 01246 498204. Alternatively, the council's homeless prevention team can be contacted on 01246 345825. If anybody requires assistance outside of normal office hours, call 01629 533190.
Coun Gilby added: "We continue to work closely with a range of partners including the police, the Police and Crime Commissioner, the local churches and other voluntary and public sector groups that can provide support and assistance to people on the streets or needing help with drug or alcohol related problems. Unfortunately that support is not always being accepted despite the best efforts of everyone involved.
"Our street cleaning teams are going out daily to clear up areas like New Beetwell Street where rubbish is being left and are also working alongside the police when they are on their patrols in the area."
Inspector Dave Nicholls, who is in charge of policing in the Chesterfield area, added: "We are continuing to target the long-term issues around anti-social behaviour in the New Beetwell Street area and working in partnership with other local agencies to target concerns.
"Our officers are carrying out regular patrols and responding to concerns.
"Although it is not illegal for people to be there, we will take action when we find illegal activity.
"We always signpost those we find who appear to be sleeping rough to homelessness services, including the homeless shelters which are being run by volunteers from local churches until March.
"However, it is always the choice of the individual as to whether they take up the help and support which is on offer.
"During the past week seven people have been arrested for drug-related offences and several people have been dispersed by officers using powers granted under the dispersal order which is in place for the town.
"We are also working with Chesterfield Borough Council to apply to the courts for Criminal Behaviour Orders for those who are persistently committing crime or anti-social behaviour."
Commenting on the situation on New Beetwell Street on social media, Sara Simpson said: "I do sympathise with the genuinly homeless. However, as a frequent user of this bus stop, I have now resorted to staying on the other side of the road until I see my bus as there is nowhere to stand or sit because of the mess and the people making home there and I feel genuinely uneasy and uncomfortable."
Christine Spyra said: "It's very intimidating. I always feel very uneasy waiting there for a bus."
Jo Knight said: "My mum actually asked me to come and wait with her at her bus stop as she was scared of these people having been verbally abused on previous occasions while waiting alone and with others. There was a pregnant lady waiting with her small son who was almost in tears."
Claire Wilmot said: "I visited town with my five-year-old a couple of week ago and had to walk past this. It's the first time I've ever felt unsafe in my home town."
Robbie Rust said: "It's horrendous and only a matter of time before a poor innocent child falls on or finds a needle. I know this is a terrible situation for these people but it's not fair on the people who have no choice and have to use the bus services."
Diane Doxey said: "Part of me feels for them – but is this not something they have brought upon themselves?"
Mark Larden said: "It's easy to sit there and judge them. Maybe that is their way of trying to escape the hell they are feeling. Remember in life a few unexpected events and this could be you next."
Denise Dawn said: "It's shocking. No one is doing anything about this social problem."
Twitter user @LeadfootedLion said: "They need help and they’re clearly not getting it."
@tgwtb3 said: "It may not be pleasant waiting for a bus there but at least you can hop on the bus to go home. Implying that all they want is drugs is incredibly ignorant to the severity of addiction. They need help."