Rogate villagers help homeless woman

Stephanie Stewart and the villagers rallying round to help her. PICTURE BY KATE SHEMILT C131160-7
Stephanie Stewart and the villagers rallying round to help her. PICTURE BY KATE SHEMILT C131160-7

ROGATE villagers have befriended a vulnerable homeless woman who they claim has been ‘dumped’ by the authorities.

Stephanie Stewart, 54, is sleeping under a tarpaulin in a back garden and getting by with the help of members of the community.

Ann Arnold, who owns the village shop, rector the Rev Edward Doyle, chairman of the village hall committee Brian Allison, nurse Helen McComish and neighbour Chris Wadsworth are among those who have lent their support.

“She is a classic case of someone who has been dumped in the community by the authorities,” said Mr Wadsworth who has been taking soup and food to Stephanie.

“When I spoke to her health care workers they didn’t even know she was living in a field,” said Mr Doyle. “I feel very sad the social workers and mental health officers don’t seem to be talking to each other.

“She really needs help and nobody out there seems to want to help.

At one point Mr Allison found her sleeping in the youth shelter on the recreation ground and opened the village hall changing rooms for her.

“Since then we have all been in touch with Chichester District Council’s (CDC) housing department, Hyde Martlet and social services at West Sussex County Council (WSCC),” said Ann, “but every door we knock on is being closed in our faces.”

Despite suffering mental health issues she moved to a flat in Rogate five years ago and with support has lived an independent life.

But she had issues concerning life at her Parsonage Estate home and she believed she had no choice but to leave and live outside.

“It’s better than being in there, I made myself homeless.”

“I kept asking for help. I didn’t know what to do,” Stephanie told the Observer.

“No one would listen to me and I had nowhere to go, it’s been quite horrid.”

She said she had been offered bed-and-breakfast accommodation but she could not take her dog and her two cats with her: “I could not go without them. They are my life. They keep me well,” she said.

A spokesman for WSCC said: “Ms Stewart has been offered temporary accommodation, which could also have housed her pets. We have also been liaising with other statutory authorities.”

A spokesman for CDC added: “We have dedicated staff to offer help, advice and guidance to anyone who finds themselves homeless. We run drop-in sessions at our offices at East Pallant House, Monday to Friday”

A spokesman for Hyde Martlet said: “Stephanie terminated her tenancy with Hyde Martlet in July 2012 of her own accord. We always strongly advise residents to think very carefully before taking this step. We’re sorry to hear the circumstances she finds herself in, if she would like housing advice we would be happy to support her via our Tenancy Sustainment Service.”