Chester's homeless community ask for water to be provided

Water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink, according to city's rough sleepers

Homeless man Simon Stafford-Smith and campaigner Jacqui Stainburn are appealing for water to be provided.

Rough sleepers say they are desperately thirsty on the streets of Chester each evening because there is no access to drinking water.

Homeless man Simon Stafford-Smith explained that during the day charities like ShareShop and CATH provide water but the problem comes at night, especially during the hot weather.

He said: “All the public toilets, you go to wash your hands and they automatically dispense soap and water together so you can’t drink that type of water.

"ShareShop are kindly giving out water bottles until 4pm but that’s only two a day each so that’s only a litre a day.

“And there are no water fountains in the whole of Chester.”

Mr Stafford-Smith, who has been suffering from dehydration during the heat, continued: “If you go in pubs or restaurants, normally, because I’m quite polite and I won’t just walk to the toilets so I ask ‘Do you mind if I get a glass of water and fill my bottle?’.

"They often say ‘No, but you can buy water if you want’ and nine times out of ten you are thrown out.

“If you own a pub I suppose you don’t want homeless people coming in and out all day for water. I can see it from their point of view.”

Simon Stafford-Smith and Phil Whyte outside Manchester County Court when legal action was sought to evict the Upton anti-fracking camp in November 2015.

Mr Stafford-Smith, who was heavily involved with the anti-fracking camp at Upton, added that a lot of homeless people were on medication but needed water to take their tablets.

Campaigner and volunteer Jacqui Stainburn is backing the call for water to be provided around the clock.

She said: “What I was told today by two separate individuals was there was no water available. I was giving out food and I was told there was no water so I checked it out and I’ve spoken to Cllr Matt Bryan and he’s going to look into it and follow it up.

“Ideally a water fountain would be the best solution,” added Jacqui, a founder of the Soul Kitchen group which was set up to feed anyone experiencing food poverty.

An alternative was for people to donate apples, oranges and tap water in plastic bottles to a central point.

“I find when people know what to give they will give it,” said the grassroots campaigner, who explained that the community networks built up to provide food and water to anti-fracking camps at Upton and Borras near Wrexham were now supporting homeless people.

Cheshire West and Chester Upton Labour councillor Matt Bryan told The Chronicle he had suggested to cabinet members that a water fountain be provided in the city centre.

He said: "I think it's an absolute minimum to provide water as a basic human right. It doesn't matter if they are homeless or just somebody looking to use fewer plastic bottles."

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