Rough sleepers have set up a makeshift camp next to a Stoke-on-Trent hotel where the homeless are being housed.
Four tents have been pitched on rubbish-strewn grass on both sides of a path which runs past The Crown Hotel in Longton.
When StokeonTrentLive visited, there was a man and a woman sheltering inside as Storm Francis raged last night but they declined to be interviewed.
It is not yet known whether they are or were in any way connected to the hotel which has been offering rooms to around 70 homeless people since the start of the coronavirus outbreak.
The camp has been set up as concerns have been raised over ‘lawless’ Longton with fights breaking out, drug use and aggressive beggars in the town centre.
Louise Batkin, who spotted the tents on Monday, said: “I was going to walk down the path at the side of The Crown Hotel.
“There were three tents set up down there with loads of mess and a gang which I really didn’t want to walk past alone.
“A few weeks ago I went down and there was a man with a baseball bat whacking a car and kicking off this was about lunchtime. It’s a disgrace.”
Kathryn Bond has also witnessed trouble in the town.
She said: “A few weeks ago there was a guy waiting outside one of the shops. When the staff saw him they were locking up and he had a weapon in his hand and was licking the lamppost. The police had to be called to take him away.”
Clare Plant-David added: “I drove past the back of Tesco on Sunday evening at about 7.30pm on that road that takes you past the back of Matalan up towards Lidl.
“Sitting on the kerb by the hedges of Tesco there was a lad peeling skin from around his ankles and injecting. It made me feel sick that my kids saw that.”
Michelle Wright no longer feels safe in her home town.
She said: “I feel intimidated when I have to go to Longton on my own.
“There are so many undesirables roaming around, I literally feel scared.
“Longton used to be OK but more and more shops are closing down or moving away, it’s a shame. We definitely need more police but the government cut down on policing to save money. The country is going to rack and ruin.”
And Nikki Robertson said: “The place is terrible, you can’t feel safe walking around Longton now, more so near The Crown Hotel. A few weeks ago I saw two people spinning around in the road and the cars couldn’t go because of them.”
At the start of the lockdown councils were instructed to bring rough sleepers in off the street and relocate homeless people living in hostels.
Dozens of men and women are being accommodated in the Crown Hotel and its Roebuck annexe to keep them off the streets in line with social distancing guidelines.
Stoke-on-Trent City Council is paying for the rooms using emergency government funding, with staff from Brighter Futures providing support to occupants seven days a week.