Bosses at a homeless charity say they are ‘frightened’ for people living on the streets of Preston after footage emerged of a city homeless man being threatened with a knife by teenagers.
Police have branded the online video as “extremely unpleasant” and say they were today working to locate the victim.
In the disturbing video, a group of youngsters are seen hurling vile, Yardie-style slurs and threats at the homeless man, who is sheltered in a car park, before threatening him with a knife.
They are then heard cackling with laughter as the elderly rough-sleeper’s possession are set on fire.
Homeless charity boss Jeff Marsh, of the Foxton Centre, confirmed they were in contact with the victim and believe he is safe.
Police say they are investigating the disturbing footage and have arrested a 15-year-old boy and a 14-year-old girl, both from Preston, in connection with the incident on suspicion of affray.
Mr Marsh, chief executive of the Foxton Centre, said: “We do know the individual, he’s okay.
“It’s a really shocking incident and you can’t in any way defend what went on, it’s really disturbing.
“Unfortunately homeless people are vulnerable to attacks in the streets.
“Sadly many homeless people are attacked which is why we need safe spaces like Foxton and those provided by other charities in the city.
“The man subject to this terrifying behaviour is known to us and we will make it a priority for our outreach team to contact him and see how we can help. I heard about it after I got a text about the video from a colleague at Lancashire Constabulary.
“I think all of our staff who saw it are just really shocked and frightened for people as well.
“I have not heard of any other reports of bedding being set on fire.
“People talk about being urinated on in the streets and sworn at and threatened.
“The streets are not a great place to be.
“I think it would be a good idea for us to sit down with the police and Preston City Council to talk about the risks to rough sleepers.”
Police are now trying to locate the man, who was sleeping in the Market Car Park when he was approached by the young people on Saturday September 8.
The video was posted earlier this week by North East comedian Robin Armstrong who claimed it was filmed in Blackpool.
He later clarified the post to say it in fact happened in Preston.
Insp Helen Dixon, of Lancashire Constabulary’s South Division, said: “This is an extremely unpleasant incident and we are working with outreach services in the city to find this man and address any safeguarding concerns.
“We are also trying to identify the young people in the video so we can take appropriate action.”
Jeff says that his team at the Foxton Centre is talking to rough sleepers at its breakfast session and on outreach to see what other things they can do to keep people safe.
Liz Mossop, Head of Community Services at Preston City Council said: “This is an extremely upsetting and unpleasant incident involving a homeless gentleman who is known to us and he has been engaging on and off with the Foxton Centre.
“The Foxton’s outreach team met him yesterday and he is okay, as this incident happened some time ago. The Police are now looking into this incident and have asked if anyone has any information about this to let them know.
“We continuously work with the Foxton Centre and other agencies in the city, with the aim to provide a safe space and a positive future for vulnerable people.”
Meanwhile, Good Samaritans have launched a £500 fundraiser to replace the man’s sleeping bag.
Writing online Rachelle Callaghan said: “It you manage to contact the gentleman could you provide me with a list of items he will need - I have plenty from collections I make to deliver to homeless in an evening.”
Lesley Fewtrell also offered her time and said: “It really makes me sick to the stomach. If I can help in any way please let me know, I feel so sad for the homeless I’ll try my best to be of any assistance. It would be a honour.”
One man decided to take the good will a step further and establish a fundraising page to donate to a homeless charity in Preston.
Writing on the JustGiving page Adam Hawkins said: “This was a deplorable act of violence against the most emotionally physically vulnerable in our society.
“While the issue of homelessness wont be solved overnight, we can perhaps contribute something - anything - right now, this minute, to help this one person.
“Hopefully this can raise money for at least the replacement of his possessions with good quality items.” To donate go to justgiving here.
Anyone with information is asked to call police 101 quoting log 751 of September 26.
Extra beds for the homeless
Thanks to Goverment funding channelled through Preston City Council the area will see 18 new spaces for homeless people who need a place to spend the night.
“At the moment we have 33 tenants that have been taken off the streets into accommodation,” said Jeff Marsh chief executive at the Foxton Centre.
“But the government has been embarrassed by the number of rough sleepers.
“Preston has been granted extra money from government to provide accommodation for rough sleepers and this kicks in from October 1.
“It’s a mix of different things. Some will be just for that night sleeping in a shared space, supervised and kept safe, some will be self-contained bed sits through a housing accommodation, some will be a large building contained into apartments.
“There will be 18 spaces overall as of Monday, October 1.”
Drop-in centres and where to go for food and help
Community Kitchen at Mill Bank Court, Edmund Street
The community kitchen at Mill Bank Court on Edmund Street provides a low priced breakfast with hot meals and tea and coffee on a Monday between 12.30pm until 2.30pm.
Community Café at The Foxton Centre, Knowsley Street
Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays the Community Café at The Foxton Centre on Knowsley Street provide low priced food and any advice and support you require between 11am until 3pm and 11am until 2pm on a Saturday.
Light Foundation - opposite Wok 2 Eat, under the Flag Market, Preston
Light Foundation provide an evening service between 8.30pm - 9.30pm on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday offering free food and drinks.
Homeless Drop In at St. Wilfred’s, Chapel Street
Homeless Drop In provide an evening service on a Tuesday between 6pm until 7pm, offering free food and hot drinks and also advice and support around homelessness.
Homeless Drop In at Preston’s Academy of English
Homeless Drop In provide a Saturday service between 6.30pm until 7.30pm, offering free food and drinks.
According to Preston City Council, rather than giving money directly to individuals on the streets, people can support homeless people better through charities who work daily to support people off the streets and into services.