PICTURES: Rough sleepers leave '˜vile' mess as they take over Portsmouth tower block
BURNT-OUT cigarettes, used needles, bottles of urine and human faeces.
These are a few of the unsavoury items left to fester at a city tower block after it was invaded by rough sleepers.
For the past two months, tenants at Fratton’s Priory View high-rise complex say they have been made to feel unsafe in their own homes as strangers sleep in the stairwells and use its top floor as a den for drugs and alcohol.
Now, residents have hit out at landlords Affinity Sutton – the firm it claims has failed to find a permanent fix for the block’s fob-entry front door since it was first broken last year.
Michelle Anderson and Matthew Gunn have lived at Priory View with their two young children for a year and a half.
Matthew, 30, said the trouble began with a hostile exchange.
He said: ‘Two months ago, we saw a homeless man and woman trying to come through the door, so we blocked them. The man tried putting his hand into the buggy my son was sat in, so I told him “if you touch that, this is not going to end well”.
‘We called the police and they told the rough sleepers they can’t enter. But since that day, these people wait until police have gone, give it a bit of time and they come right in because the door is broken.’
Typically, Matthew says, the trespassers leave behind a trail of mess.
He said: ‘It’s disgusting. When you enter, you’re hit by the smell of drugs. As you travel upstairs, there’s food wrappers, needles and cigarettes that haven’t been put out properly – all on carpet. There’s even been faeces in the lift.
‘But when you get to the very top, it’s vile. There are dirty mattresses, sleeping bags, containers of urine, more needles, empty alcohol bottles and messages they’ve scribbled all over the walls.’
Despite repeat visits, Affinity Sutton has not yet found a permanent solution for the problem, claims Michelle.
She said: ‘The door has been broken for just over a year. It’s excuse after excuse. Something needs to be done urgently. They have come out about four times, but each time they fix the door, it usually breaks inside a week.
‘I never used to have anxiety attacks but now I’m on tablets for them because of the stress. My autistic children have been left in tears with their ear defenders on when these people set off our fire alarms.
‘No-one is safe in this building any more and every time we hear a noise, we fear the intruders are back.’
Residents say they have seen as many as eight rough sleepers in the building at a time.
Single parent Natalie English, 27, said: ‘The abuse we face from these people – including spitting – is a joke.
‘I moved here to be secure. I felt safe because it was me and my 10-year-old son, but now I’m constantly looking over my shoulder because of that door.
‘I feel sorry for the homeless, but I can hardly sleep at night. We need this sorted ASAP.’
Statistics from 2016 show homelessness in Portsmouth and Havant has more than doubled, while a national charity report predicts UK rough sleeping could quadruple by 2041.
A spokesperson for Affinity Sutton – which runs 58,000 properties across 120 UK authorities – said the firm is putting security on site.
The spokesperson added: ‘We are aware of the door lock issue at one of the blocks at Priory View and a new door entry and security system has been ordered and is in the process of being manufactured for us.
‘Our residents’ safety is our top priority, so as an interim solution we will be fitting a bolt lock to the inside of the door and until this is installed and we’re happy that security issues are resolved, we have put in place 24-hour on-site security.’