A homeless woman who ‘had been raped and abused’ had to be cared for in Horncastle Community Centre after what local volunteers are claiming was a complete breakdown in East Lindsey District Council’s emergency service.
The woman was found last Monday (January 13) at 6pm outside a ladies’ fashion wear shop in the town’s Market Place, and she was taken to the nearby Community Centre.
Lee Bowman, who runs a successful Outreach Kitchen Programme at the centre, tried to contact East Lindsey District Council’s emergency hot-line for the homeless ,but says there was no answer.
He also tried ELDC’s ‘partner agency’ P3 which was set up to help people sleeping on the streets - again without success.
As a result, the woman had to stay at the Community Centre for two nights before she was eventually ‘collected’ by specialist staff.
Mr Bowman described the breakdown in communication as ‘not good enough.’
ELDC denied Mr Bowman’s claims, saying the person who telephoned their emergency number hung up before they had time to answer.
Mr Bowman has described that statement as ‘ridiculous and not true’.
He said: “Street outreach teams working two days a week on the street is not good enough.
“Being forwarded to a answer phone on a homeless helpline after 4pm because that’s when the outreach/inreach teams clock off is not good enough.
“That message not being listened to until the next day is not good enough.
“A person having to be found actually sleeping rough when the outreach/inreach team eventually come to find them is not good enough.
“No pre-arranged time so a provision of care and nurture can be provided is not good enough.
“Vulnerable minors being reported and left unsupported to return to the street is not good enough.
“We are all humans, we all have feelings, and we all drop off the mainstream at some point in our lives.
“It’s time to change.”
Mr Bowman spoke about the situation regarding the woman at a meeting of Horncastle Town Council last Tuesday evening.
Councillors said they were ‘stunned’ to hear there was no answer on the emergency hotline.
Mr Bowman told the meeting: “She (the woman) is very vulnerable.
“She been raped and abused. I believe she had been ‘sex-trafficked’.
“She’s got a drink problem.
“We made her as comfortable as we could but we kept having to keep move her out of the centre because kids were coming in for the various classes which are held there. It wasn’t ideal but at least she was safe.”
Mayor Fiona Martin, who is a district councillor, asked Mr Bowman to supply her with more details after the meeting and promised to ‘chase up’ ELDC.
Mr Bowman added: “The woman was eventually picked up on Wednesday and from what I can gather is now receiving the help and support she needs.
“Fiona (Coun Martin) was absolutely brilliant.
“I also want to thank all the people who came and helped and brought the woman food and other stuff.
“It shows what a great community spirit there is in Horncastle.”
Mr Bowman said it was the third homeless person who volunteers had helped in Horncastle in recent months.
He said: “It doesn’t matter what the figure is. We need a better system in place.”
Mr Bowman has arranged a meeting with ELDC, P3, town councillors and Community Centre representatives at the end of this month.
He’s hoping to get the go ahead to set up a ‘safe room’ at the centre.
Assistant Director at East Lindsey District Council, Michelle Howard said: “The council has introduced changes to its homelessness service and secured additional funding to enable the introduction of a Rough Sleeping Prevention Team in 2019.
“Our staff and partners have worked tirelessly and have had a positive impact on reducing the number of people who find themselves sleeping rough in East Lindsey.
“Our homelessness service is accessible at all times, including out of hours.
“On this occasion the emergency number was called but the caller disconnected before reaching the council’s out of hours service.
“If anybody is aware of an individual at risk of, or sleeping rough, please contact us on 01507 601111.
“Your call will be directed to a duty homelessness officer out of office hours.”