Arsonist strikes at camp set up by the homeless

A homeless community has set up camp in Homefield Park
A homeless community has set up camp in Homefield Park

A SMALL homeless community living at Worthing’s Homefield Park was targeted by an arsonist on Saturday morning.

A 43-year-old Worthing woman was arrested on suspicion of arson with intent to endanger life after a tent in the homeless camp was set alight at 4.22am.

It was so scary, the whole place stank of paraffin.

Jodie Swan

Firefighters attended the scene but it was out on arrival and no-one was hurt.

The woman has been released on bail until May 26 while further enquiries are made.

Consisting of eight tents, the camp is currently home to 12 people and two dogs – a Staffordshire bull terrier called Lunar and a Staff/Labrador cross called Charlie.

Jodie Swan, 27, has been homeless on and off for the past four years and is currently living at the site.

She said: “I cry every night. We are all scared, even the men I think. It was so scary, the whole place stank of paraffin. It’s a good job it was raining that night and the tents were wet.

“If they had done it the night before when the tents were dry it would have gone up in seconds. Two people were in the tent at the time. Lunar got a burn on her paw.”

The group has been in the park for more than a week, following an eight-week stay at Goring Gap.

Ms Swan said that the camp members were not being offered enough help by Worthing Churches Homeless Projects.

She said: “We are not moving. We don’t want sympathy. We want help.

“They build you up to fail. They are just not helping us. They are saying we’re not vulnerable enough. Being set alight, is that not vulnerable enough? We want more support.”

Sue Stevens, PR & fundraising manager for Worthing Churches Homeless Projects, said the charity was not able to discuss individual cases but was aware some members of the camp were using the charity’s services.

Mrs Stevens said: “We would not tell anyone who is street homeless that they are not vulnerable enough to receive our help. We have various ways in which we offer help. For someone who is homeless or insecurely housed they can access our day centre which is open 365 days a year for advice, support and much more. From here, depending on their situation they may be offered a space in one of our projects. However, the residential projects are constantly full; therefore there is a waiting list in operation.”

John Mitchell, director for communities at Adur & Worthing councils, said the council was working ‘swiftly’ to remove the campers.

He said: “They are not allowed to be there and we appreciate the concerns which are being raised by the local community.

“Our Housing Services team are proactively offering support to the people living in the tents, assisting them in accessing emergency care or accommodation as appropriate to help them move out of the park. We are also in daily close contact with Sussex Police who are responding to any suggestions of anti-social behaviour in the park.”