Frustrated residents have aired their views on a Worthing homeless shelter at a heated public meeting.
The 38-bed temporary accommodation was opened in vacant flats in Lyndhurst Road in April.
Members of the community arranged the meeting amid concerns the building’s operator, Worthing Churches Homeless Projects, and the police were not doing enough to combat anti-social behaviour.
Residents also complained the planning process was ‘sneaky’, with many unaware of what was planned for the flats and that drugs and alcohol would be allowed on the premises.
One resident said at Tuesday night’s meeting: “We don’t know what’s going on over the road. We don’t have any confidence that someone will be there to deal with it. There is fear in the community.”
Crime prevention inspector Allan Lowe said there had been no notable increase in crime since the shelter opened.
“There has been an increase in crime across Worthing this summer but we have to take into account the World Cup and warm weather,” said Insp Lowe.
“We are not seeing a spike in crime from this property. Selden ward is far down the list in anti-social behaviour reports.
“We are trying to reduce homelessness and anti-social behaviour across Worthing and this is one of the few options we have.”
Several residents countered they were unable to report crimes as the 101 service was inefficient. Inspector Lowe urged people to report anything via email so police can keep a record.
John Holmstrom, chief executive of Worthing Churches Homeless Projects, pointed to heightened security, such as electronically locked doors and 16 cameras giving 360-degree views. He said: “The people in the development are local people – of the 35 rough sleepers in Worthing, 90 per cent are local, which is rare for a coastal town. These people are your neighbours.
“Part of the reason these people are vulnerable will be mental health issues – 70 per cent will have mental health issues. Some use drink and drugs to anaesthetise that pain. The problem is we stigmatise homeless people and characterise them in that way. We don’t tolerate any drug dealing in the project. If we see any, we will evict the resident.”