Councillor says homeless man involved in Debenhams row could be in housing by new year

Debenhams in Commercial Road, Portsmouth 

Picture: Malcolm Wells (094493-2300) PPP-160923-124850001
Debenhams in Commercial Road, Portsmouth Picture: Malcolm Wells (094493-2300) PPP-160923-124850001

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A COUNCILLOR says that the homeless man caught up a dispute with Debenhams over an ‘assault’ on Boxing Day could be in housing by the new year.

Russell Allen posted on Facebook on Tuesday morning to say that a guard at the Debenhams store in Commercial Road, Portsmouth, had flooded his bedding.

His post went viral on social media prompting a huge online reaction as thousands signed petitions calling for the store to take action.

The store said yesterday in a statement that they had publicly apologised to Mr Allen.

Councillor Paul Godier, who chairs Portsmouth City Council’s homelessness taskforce and knows Mr Allen well, says he is working to find him some accommodation this week.

Speaking to The News, Cllr Godier said: ‘We are hoping to get him a home as soon as we can.

‘He is a very vulnerable individual at the moment and so he needs help to get him back on track.’

Cllr Godier, who has known Mr Allen for some time and used to be homeless himself, spoke to members of the Debenhams staff yesterday morning to ascertain the details of the incident and said a further meeting between the councillor, Mr Allen and the store manager is planned for next week.

Cllr Godier said: ‘Debenhams are very keen to see what they can do to help Mr Allen. They apologised, and they did it in person but they are keen to see what they can do more.

‘They have also agreed to help out the taskforce and bring in more businesses on our side which is good of them.’

The independent councillor added: ‘I think Russell just really wants the situation to be diffused as it does seem to have been blown out of proportion.’

In his post, Mr Allen said: ‘I woke up feeling wet socks and clothes. Thought I might [have] left a bottle open or something.

‘I then get told by the security of Debenhams I have ten minutes which was fine but as he walked away, he said enjoy your water bed.’

He continued to say that the security guard had flooded his bedding, ruined clothing, dog food, bedding and public donations.

The statement from Debenhams read; ‘We take this matter very seriously and have investigated it thoroughly this morning.

‘We have established that this was an unfortunate accident in which the routine cleaning of the fire exit from inside of the store resulted in some of the gentleman’s property on the other side of the fire exit becoming wet.

‘Debenhams has now supplied the gentleman with new bedding and clothing, and a member of our team has met him to offer our sincere apologies for any distress caused.’