Rise in 'despicable' attacks on homeless people in Northampton
A homelessness charity has seen a rise in 'despicable' attacks on people sleeping rough in Northampton.
Homeless people are being beaten up by gangs on bicycles, with some even having their sleeping bags set on fire, according to the chief executive of Northampton Hope Centre.
Robin Burgess is calling on the public to intervene if they see anyone harassing people sleeping on the streets and report incidents to police.
"For some reason, there are people who want to go out and hurt homeless people," he said.
"It's absolutely despicable, it's mindless brutality towards the most vulnerable people in our community who often can't fight back with nowhere to run, they're often intoxicated and can't do anything about it."
Mr Burgess detailed one incident reported to them where someone was sleeping rough at All Saints Church, a person parked their car outside and started attacking them 'for no reason'.
The attacks can make things even worse for homeless people, he said, as it can further knock their self-confidence and force people to hide away - meaning they do not get the help they need.
He described the violence as a hate crime and is encouraged by the fact police have agreed to that definition. However, he is frustrated that a lack of resources means it is hard to tackle the problem.
So Mr Burgess is urging anyone who witnesses such assaults to shout at the attacker to stop, not physically get involved, but to just support the victim and report it to police.
"The general public has got to help and show solidarity with the homeless community as once you have accepted this violence, we've gone down a bad road," he said.
"People often see homeless people as an under-class but we have to see them as human beings with the same pain and emotions as everyone else and they don't deserve it."
A Northamptonshire Police spokesman said there has not been an increase in such attacks being reported over the past few weeks, but encouraged people to report any incidents to them.