Iain Dale is Leading Britain's Conversation.
7 August 2017, 15:31
A homeless army veteran claims he has been ignored by Britain’s largest homeless charity, despite sleeping rough opposite its head office for years.
Tony Richards built himself a makeshift camp on the street opposite the plush London headquarters of Shelter, a charity which was set up to help the homeless.
However, the 67-year-old says because of his age, he is struggling to get the help and support he needs.
“Everyday it hurts that I wake up opposite a huge homeless charity, and know they won’t help me,” he said.
“Shelter are useless, they really are bloody useless.
“If you’re 25 they will get you a place but when you get to my age they won’t help you.”
Mr Richards has been on the streets of the capital for 28 years, and spent the past three opposite the multimillion pound HQ.
Originally from Coventry, he served in the Armed Forces and worked on fishing trawlers in Scandinavia.
As a soldier he spent seven years based in Berlin while serving with the Coldstream Guards.
Now, he spends almost every day on a bench, challenging passers-by to a game of chess.
He says for a time he had a camp bed set up before he was instructed by police to remove it.
Mr Richards now hopes the charity will take notice of him and help him get back on to his feet.
“It’s a shame really because they say they will help anybody - but they won’t,” he continued.
“Occasionally somebody will come over and have a game of chess - and occasionally bring me a cup of tea - but they close their eyes to my needs.
"I live in hope that they notice I need help.”
Alison Mohammed, Director of Services at Shelter, said: “Shelter is well aware of the gentleman sleeping on Old Street and our London team has been to speak with him on a number of occasions throughout 2016 and 2017.
"On every occasion, we have offered advice and to help him access any services he is entitled to such as supported housing. However, he has refused the help saying he is happy to remain where he is.
"There is therefore nothing more we can do at this stage other than respect his wishes and keep checking in with him in case his situation changes.
“Shelter does not only offer support to under-25s, our advice is offered to anyone of any age, anywhere in the country.”