The homeless men living in the beach shelter on Bognor Regis seafront have lifted the lid on their lives and how they came to be on the streets.
The men, the two main occupants Peter and Paul, are in their 60s and they are joined by a man aged, 40, named Adam, have sparked a debate among townsfolk.
Social media, Facebook especially, is awash with discussion and argument focusing on the men, with, seemingly, opinion divided on the legitimacy of their presence in the temporary home.
Some Bognorians choose to focus on beer. Others on the brotherhood of man.
But despite some anger to the grey-whiskered gentlemen of the road, one of the men, Paul, says he has been shown nothing but kindness from prom users during the three months he has been kipping in the shelter.
“We are give warm clothing, some money and food as well as bedding. Overall the people are very kind and we thank them for it. I understand everyone has an opinion and that’s fare enough but, believe me, anyone could end up in this position (homeless).”
“We get criticised for drinking but when you are on the streets sometimes it is a way of forgetting your predicament and at nights you can’t get to sleep without a couple of beers.”
Paul says he has a four-bedroom bungalow in northern Thailand where is estranged wife and son lives but that because of various reasons he isn’t able to go back to his property. Adam is from eastbourne where his wife and two children live, while Peter hails from Horsham, where “the people are miserable bastards”.
Paul says he has only been able to find work for four days since he has been back in England. He is a skilled worker with fibreglass and has previously worked all over the world on vessels.
Following a warm Autumn, Paul says he fears the cold coming in and has already noticed the drop in temperature.
“Last night (Monday) it was very cold and when we get a southerly wind it can be even colder.”
Paul says claims that the shelter smells of urine and is messy are far from the truth.
“We sweep up every day and make sure there is no rubbish and everything is out in the bins provided.”
He says that the authorities don’t hassle him and his friends.
“The cops are fine with us,”
he said with some relief.
Some say kindness doesn’t have a price and drop the men a few quid knowing that when they have bought food the rest could easily be used to buy booze.
It’s a story of that has provoked an outpouring of anger. It is also a tale to lift hearts with acts of kindness There is some fury, some forgiveness. Hostility and hope.
Others rally against the notion that the men should be treated with some sympathy and point out that the prom is for the use of families who don’t want to see “pissed up tramps’ sleeping rough.
The debate rages on at the Facebook site Bognor Matters. It kicked off when Keith Hardwell wrote:
“I see the beach shelter opposite the Waverley has now become a home for 3 men for the last few weeks. All seats taken up with sleeping bags and cans of alcohol. How come they haven’t been moved on?”
Sharon Wells said:
“What ever their story.. whether they have to “relieve” them selves in an inappropriate place.. it’s so sad! Has anyone spoken to them? Offered a blanket? Flask of soup?”
“I for one will now stop moaning that I can’t afford to put my heating on as much as I would like, because at least I have a roof over my head! #theres always someone worse off.”