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Deliberate fire targets homeless

The chief fire officer of West Sussex Fire and Rescue has described a blaze as a ‘devastating thing to happen’.


Fire crews were called to reports of a fire in an underpass at Oaklands Way in Chichester on Friday, January 3, at 7.53pm.


A fire spokesperson said: “One crew from Chichester Fire Station was mobilised to the scene, and upon arrival found a fire involving the possessions of a homeless person. Crews used one hose reel to put the fire out, with the damage covering an area of around five square metres.


“The fire is believed to be of deliberate ignition and Sussex Police have been informed.”


Dr Sabrina Cohen-Hatton, who was formerly homeless herself, said: “To lose your possessions to fire is an absolutely devastating thing to happen, regardless of who you are or where you are in your life.


“When I heard of this incident attended by one of our Chichester crews, my heart sank.


“Someone, who is vulnerable, who does not have the security of a home that many of us enjoy, will have seen all of their worldly possessions mindlessly destroyed.


“Our fire investigation officers will be working closely with Sussex Police to investigate the cause of this fire.


“I would strongly urge anyone with any information relating to this incident to contact Sussex Police on 101.”


Donna Ockenden, founder and volunteer with the Four Streets Project, said the charity had received many kind donations of everyday items given by members of the public to replace those that were lost in families.


She added: “Many local residents of Chichester have expressed outrage and disgust at the fire that destroyed all the possessions of two of Chichester’s homeless men over the weekend. There is shock that this could happen to such vulnerable people who have so little.


“So many individuals, families and businesses in Chichester are so very kind to the homeless community and The Four Streets Project on an ongoing basis and for this we are all very grateful.”

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