Where’s the help? Lincoln homeless volunteers’ disgust as woman found in own filth

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Local outreach charity volunteers have made a desperate call for more public services to help those on the streets, after they found a vulnerable elderly woman covered in her own faeces in Lincoln city centre.

Drew Potts runs a team of around 20-30 volunteers at ‘Let Them Eat Cake’, which is a small community outreach charity helping the rough sleeping community to get temporary accommodation at hotels, as well as food, clothing and kit including tents and sleeping bags.

It has two teams, one each operating in the north and south of the city, and on Sunday night alone they gave out six sleeping bags.

During the evening of December 8 they saw one of their worst cases yet. A vulnerable elderly woman was found covered in their own faeces and urine in the town centre at around 8pm-8.30pm, although the exact location could not be disclosed.

Drew said: “She was covered in her own faeces and had urinated over herself and was shivering. I got a call from one of my team saying we needed to get her a hotel for the night.

Let Them Eat Cake founder Drew Potts. Photo: Emily Norton

“Two or three girls assisted the lady up to her room and my team had to help clean her in the bath. The muck on her seemed to have been there for days, dried from her bum down her legs and on her toes.

“She had ulcers and wounds glowing red on her legs. It devastated the team and wrecked all our heads seeing her in this way.

“The police were called and they said to call for an ambulance, but she didn’t want any help from them. When she was taken into the hotel room she was crying with relief.

“She clearly needs help with a lot of issues – mental health is the main thing, but also with alcohol and the condition she’s in. I called 111 later in the evening and they said they will see what they can do, but if they can help it would be out of their jurisdiction to let me know what happens.

“We are the ones having to run around taking these people to hospital, A&E and ringing hotels. We are not pointing the blame at anyone, we are a community organisation asking questions like ‘how did the person get to that state without intervention?’.”

Sunday’s case prompted a lengthy Facebook post by the organisation which said it was disgusted at the lack of help and support its outreach team has received from some services.

It questioned where the mental health support and drug rehabilitation teams and rough sleeping officers were that are “supposed to be out there supporting our city’s vulnerable citizens”.

City of Lincoln County Council said it is aware of the individual, who is receiving assistance from a neighbouring local authority. It added that “Lincoln has many services that work with people who are street homeless”.

The council also said that its intervention team patrol a number of times daily and have been working into the evening in the lead up to Christmas.

Photo: Let them eat cake Facebook page

Among the outreach services available is the city council’s intervention team. It was introduced in October 2018 on an initial 12 month trial to tackle the city centre’s anti-social behaviour and drug addiction problems. The city council spent £61,000 to fund the team.

In June 2019 it was announced that the intervention team would receive £65,000 worth of funding to tackle the problem in the city until 2020.

Yvonne Fox, Assistant Director of Housing at City of Lincoln Council, said: “The person referenced in the Facebook post by Let Them Eat Cake is known to us and other service providers. This particular person is being assisted by a neighbouring local authority, which has a statutory duty to them.

“Lincoln has many services that work with people who are street homeless in order to help them into accommodation and ensure they have the assistance and support required.

What to do if you see someone sleeping rough in Lincoln this winter

“We have reached out to Let Them Eat Cake to work more closely with ourselves and other organisations. Unfortunately, on this occasion, they have not notified us of the full details of the situation, so that we could contact our colleagues in South Kesteven to ensure the person in question has the assistance she requires.

“If any member of the public has any concerns regarding a person who may be street homeless, please contact P3 outreach on 01522 304511”

Francesca Bell, Public Protections and Anti-Social Behaviour Manager at the city council, added: “We are keen to improve the health of all our communities, particularly the most vulnerable.

“For those who are homeless or identify as being part of the on-street community we have a number of projects and teams that work collectively to address the often very complex, embedded issues involved. We work with partners across all sectors to ensure our response to these issues is effective.

“The Lincoln intervention Team is tasked with reducing on-street anti-social behaviour (ASB) by dealing with the deep rooted issues that can lead this. The team patrol a number of times daily and have been working into the evening on the lead up to Christmas, to ensure the city is safe and adequate support is being provided to those in need.

“However, it is a small team so it is not always possible to see everyone in need and it is only one service amongst many. As well as dealing with ASB and supporting our community, they will always aim to signpost people toward more appropriate services.

“There are some fantastic services and volunteers doing some incredible work across this city but, to be most effective, it is essential that all partners work with us.”

Let Them Eat Cake was launched in September 2017 and since then it has already spent thousands of pounds helping people in need and rough sleepers in Lincoln.

Drew, who said he planned to speak with the city council on Monday, added: “It shocked me and I’ve got to the point where the public needs to be told that everything isn’t all shiny and happy and there are cases that are being missed and people are suffering because of it.”

Anyone wishing to donate to Let them eat cake can message the Facebook page and its Amazon Wishlist is also available here.

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