Tragic past of man who lived - and died - on the streets
A homeless man who was found dead in Chesterfield town centre last week lost his son in a devastating house fire three years ago.
Mark Green, 38, died in a bus shelter on New Beetwell Street after being found unresponsive in the early hours of last Thursday morning.
Just over three years ago, Mark’s son Tyler Green, 9, died alongside his nephew Jordan Green, 12, in a North Wingfield fire which also claimed the lives of their mother and her friend.
The fire - which took place on Williamthorpe Road on November 20, 2013 - was caused by an electrical fault in the ceiling of the property which was described by the coroner as a ‘timebomb’.
The boys - who lived with their mother, Josie Leighton, 32, on Dethick Way in North Wingfield - had been staying at the house of Josie’s friend, Claire James, 27, for a sleepover on the night of the tragedy. The sole survivor of the fire was Claire’s daughter, seven-year-old Tia James.
A woman who works with homeless people in Chesterfield, who did not want to be named, told the Derbyshire Times she was aware of Mark’s tragic past.
She said: “He was always nice and pleasant with us - I really liked him.
“He was a cracking lad - really funny.
“He had a great personality and always had a laugh with everybody.
“I just felt incredibly sorry for him because of the things that had happened to him in his life.”
The woman - who had known Mark about six months - said the tragedy highlighted the ‘growing’ problem of homelessness in Chesterfield.
“The council doesn’t seem to believe we have a homeless problem, but we do,” she said.
“There is no emergency housing and there is nowhere for people to go and sleep for just one night.
“I don’t think Mark is the first person to die on the streets this winter.”
Chesterfield Borough Council, however, defended their record on homelessness in the borough.
Councillor Helen Bagley, Chesterfield Borough Council’s cabinet member for customers and communities, said: “Each day, we provide help, advice and support to people who are homeless in Chesterfield.
“Unfortunately, we cannot help everyone. There are cases where we have offered people advice and support which has been refused and people have chosen to remain sleeping rough rather accept the help they have been offered.”
Coun Bagley pointed to the council’s funding of the ‘No Second Night Out’ scheme, which pays for support workers to go out at night, offering food, accommodation and support to those sleeping rough.
She also said the council had links with other faith-based and charitable groups who can also provide hot food and accommodation for those in need.
“The council provides temporary accommodation to vulnerable people and households that are in most need of housing,” she said.
“Unfortunately not everybody is entitled to this but they are still offered support and assistance in order to resolve their housing need.
“In cases where there is severe cold weather, we will provide temporary accommodation to those who would not usually receive accommodation.
“We do have homes available for people and they are available for anyone to bid for. We also have a dedicated team who work with people to sustain their tenancy.
“Anyone who has a friend or family member who is looking for a council tenancy should contact the team at On the Move by visiting www.onthemove-cbc.org.uk or calling 01246 345700.”
Coun Bagley said that many rough sleepers also have issues with drink or drug misuse and that the council stood ready to help them find the help and support they need.
She added that members of the public could also help by reporting homelessness via the Street Link website at www.streetlink.org.uk.
However, other services who work with homeless people in the town said they too were finding it increasingly hard to cope with the number of the cases they were seeing.
Dr Cathy Madden, a trustee with Pathways of Chesterfield, said: “As an organisation that works, with other services, to support the homeless of Chesterfield and surrounding area, Pathways was very saddened to hear of the recent death of a homeless man locally.
“We have been operating for the last ten years and have seen significantly more people needing our help over the past 18 months, reflecting an increase in homelessness both locally but also nationally.
“In addition people now often need support with more complicated problems as well as a lack of somewhere to live. This means that they are even more vulnerable and particularly during the winter months.
“We are a small charity, reliant on grants and donations, and would like to be able to offer our services to all those who need them. If you need our help or can support us please call 01246 498204.”
The DT contacted Mr Green’s family but they didn’t want to comment further.