Homeless community dreaming of better life

A homeless camp in Skegness
A homeless camp in Skegness

FAMED for its golden beaches, bracing sea air and family-friendly entertainment, visitors have been flocking to Skegness in their droves ever since it emerged as a tourist resort in the early twentieth century.

However it’s not just holidaymakers and day-trippers who succumb to the allure of Skegness’s seaside charms.

Homeless people are also drawn to the coast, hoping for a better life, spurred on by fond memories of childhood holidays.

Nestled out of sight behind the beach, mere minutes from the majority of tourist attractions, a small homeless community live in tents, fending off the bitter North Sea wind, gathered round oil drum fires for warmth.

Their meagre possessions and basic accommodation may seem unappealing to most, but according to those living there, it’s a vast improvement on where they have come from.

Like the millions of regular visitors who descend on Skegness every summer, this homeless community has travelled miles to be here - their favourite seaside resort.

Camp member Pete McCudden said: “I left Northampton because I didn’t like the town and my situation had got pretty heavy.

“I wanted to get my life started so I headed to Skegness in July because it’s always been my favourite little coastal town.

“I ended up in Witham Lodge but there’s lots of rules to get in there and it wasn’t the place for me so I started camping here.

“Believe it or not it’s actually quite comfortable, it can be a bit cold but this is a pretty nice camp site.”

Despite Paul’s upbeat take on his situation and the camaraderie he shares with his camp-mates, their group is not immune from the common problems synonymous with homelessness.

Paul has been robbed several times and many of the homeless people he meets are dependent on drink or drugs and have underlying mental issues.

Centre manager at Witham Lodge George Hockings believes that Paul’s situation is not uncommon.

“Skegness is one of the top seaside resorts in the country and many people travel here thinking there’s a lot employment,” he said.

“Often they’ll arrive finding all the seasonal jobs have gone and will end up coming to us for help.”

Witham Lodge refused admission to 500 homeless people last year, mainly because there is not enough space due in part to the number of homeless people drawn to the area.

Faced with a lack of social housing and a steady influx of visitors Mr Hockings believes there is ‘a great need for more hostels in East Lindsey’.