Firefighters and community band together to clean Chichester underpass where homeless person’s belongings torched
Volunteers from the West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service joined members of the community to clean black soot from the walls of the Northgate underpass this morning (January 9).
The walls were stained black last weekend, when two homeless people’s belongings were reduced to ashes in an arson attack which destroyed their bedding and clothes.
The team, made up of C Watch firefighters, also included volunteers from St Pancras Church, who support the homeless community in Chichester, and Mad Hatters Asylum, a mixed martial arts gym in Shopwhyke.
The firefighters provided water, directed commuters through the wet underpass and, at one point, chipped in with a firehose, as the other volunteers set to work with mops, sponges and buckets of soapy water.
Jack Magee, firefighter and owner of Mad Hatters Asylum, organised the clean-up project after hearing about the attack and wanting to help.
He said: “I wanted to give them some bedding after I heard it had been set alight, but, when I came down, the community had already given loads of stuff
“I wondered what I could do and I thought ‘it’s not nice to be sleeping here’. They’re sleeping rough in a place where all their stuff has been burned. So I decided to come down and clean it.
“I kind of wanted to show something about the community in Chichester. How, when one person does a malicious act, a handful of people come down and do an act of kindness. That’s what I wanted to prove: that there is help out there for those that need it.”
Watch Commander Antony Wills, who took part in the clean-up effort, said: “Jack from Mad Hatters has come up with the idea of having a clean up, getting the homeless person back living in a nicer area. We’ve come down to assist where we can, apply some water and have a little scrub.”
Tom Mawer, who works with St Pancras Church’s Heart for Homeless initiative, which organises daily breakfast clubs to help feed rough sleepers, said: “It’s great that local people are getting together to help the homeless and help the community.”
The effort comes after a wider community response to the arson attack, with The Four Streets Project leading a donation drive to help replace the homeless people’s belongings.