Homeless man sleeps in woods as UK town is so dangerous ‘junkies will stab you’

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    A homeless bloke living in a run-down seaside town says he sleeps in a shelter in woods, well away from the town centre, because the local drug addicts will “stab you with a needle”. Jappa lives on the streets in Torquay, Devon, making a little cash by making and selling handicrafts.

    Torquay has a serious homelessness problem which Jappa says is largely down to the collapse of local industry. “All the businesses are shutting down and moving away from the area to find other areas and locations and set up the big home depots,” he said.

    Many of the shops on Torquay's high street are boarded up. Jappa told podcaster Wendell: “Only half of the stores are open, the council charge way too much rent for the premises, so [business owners] can’t occupy them.”

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    “There was a coffee shop owner who said it cost him £400 to turn the key in the door before he even started trading. He had to make that back in coffee sales – which he couldn’t do so he only traded for a couple of weeks.”

    Japper says he’s built a "bender" – a simple shelter made of branches and twigs – in nearby woodland to sleep in. "It’s a good couple of miles to walk into town,” he said, but added that he’s better off because it means he’s “safe and away from heroin addicts”.

    Sleeping in the town itself can be "incredibly dangerous", Jappa added. He continued: “They will stab you with needles if they feel pressured in anyway. Maybe they’re thieving, and they feel pressured, they’ll stab you.”

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    That can immediately raise the risk of contracting HIV, hepatitis and numerous other diseases. That is partly why most locals are largely “scared” of homeless people and avoid them as much as possible, Jappa said.

    While Jappa has travelled all over the world, backpacking to Cambodia and The Himalayas, he’s now living rough in Devon and there are few opportunities for him to get out of that situation. Homelessness is a serious growing problem in the area, says John Hamblin, chief executive of charity Shekinah Mission.

    Commenting on a survey to asses the number of rough sleepers in the area, he said: “It is also really concerning that [among the rough sleepers identified] there were nine females in their early 20s.

    “For me the number of newly homeless people we came across was concerning, some have only been homeless for a couple of weeks and were not the stereotypical people who have fallen into rough sleeping over the years. A number had never been homeless before and found themselves on the floor in a shelter wondering what had happened.”

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