Managers of a supermarket in Halifax have defended their actions after staff were seen removing the tent of a rough sleeper from their premises earlier this month.
With temperatures dropping well below freezing at the time of the incident, shoppers said they were shocked to watch the staff taking away the tent and other items from where the man had been staying beside a warm air vent outside Sainsbury's on Lower Cross Street since before Christmas.
One woman, who had been out shopping with her young family, said that she had been disgusted with the attitude of the staff, who she said were "laughing and joking" while taking the tent inside the store.
She said there was no sign of the occupant at the time and that a number of customers had been astounded by the store's actions.
A Sainsbury's spokesperson defended the removal of the tent, claiming that drug paraphernalia had been found close-by and that the site had become a danger to passers-by.
The spokesperson said, “The safety of our customers and colleagues is our priority and we have helped the man move his belongings to a new site.”
Calderdale Council’s Cabinet Member for Planning, Housing and Environment, Cllr Daniel Sutherland, said:
“Supporting rough sleepers is a priority for the Council. We work closely with partners to ensure that homeless people are offered shelter, particularly when the temperature drops below zero.
“We had been liaising with the occupants of the tent near Sainsbury’s in Halifax and have been working with our partners, Horton Housing, to offer advice and support.
“In all cases, our Community Wardens approach and engage with anyone they find to be sleeping rough in the borough and will offer assistance and advice and refer people to temporary accommodation.
“If you have concerns about someone you think is sleeping rough, contact Horton Housing on 07584 015772 or the Council’s Customer First on 01422 288001, (out of hours 01422 288000).”