Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Debenhams row 'highlights homelessness' in Portsmouth

Russell Allen
Image caption Russell Allen posted a message on Facebook claiming his belongings had been "flooded" from inside the Debenhams store

The row over a rough sleeper who claims he was soaked in a shop doorway in Portsmouth on Boxing Day has raised awareness of homelessness in the city, a councillor has said.

More than 12,000 people signed a petition criticising Debenhams in Commercial Road after a Facebook post by Russell Allen went viral.

Debenhams said it was an "unfortunate accident" during routine cleaning.

Councillor Paul Godier said he was trying to find Mr Allen accommodation.

Mr Allen posted a message on Facebook claiming his clothes, bedding and dog food had been "flooded" from inside the Debenhams store.

A statement from the retailer said: "We have established that this was an unfortunate accident in which the routine cleaning of the fire exit from the inside of the store resulted in some of the gentleman's property on the other side of the fire exit becoming wet.

"Debenhams has now supplied the gentleman with new bedding and clothing, and a member of our team has met him to offer our sincere apologies for any distress caused."

Image copyright Google
Image caption Debenhams has issued an apology to Russell Allen

Charles Dickens ward councillor Mr Godier said Mr Allen's situation "needs addressing" but criticised what he said had been threats made against Debenhams and himself on social media.

"Portsmouth is a passionate city - when people see vulnerable people becoming victims, they will be impassioned. But in many cases some of this passion has been misdirected," Mr Godier said.

"This is an opportunity to bring the businesses sector a greater understanding of the homeless."

He said as Mr Allen had no local connections and was not classified as vulnerable, he did not qualify for council help but an individual had offered a private room.

"The only dilemma was finding temporary accommodation for his dog which would need to be arranged."

"Homelessness has risen drastically across the country. It's not an easy fix. As part of the [Portsmouth City Council] homelessness working group next year we'll be delving deeper into the causes of homelessness and assessing vulnerability in much greater detail," he added.

Mr Allen said he believed "something good and some awareness" would come out of the situation.

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