A woman currently living in a tent in Grimsby, a town on the North-East coast of England, is fearing for her life after repeated attacks, the local news has reported.
Jenny has been homeless for a few months and, along with her boyfriend, has been staying in tents in and around Grimsby town centre. She says her tent was set on fire three times in two weeks and that she suffered burns caused by plastic falling from the tent during an attack which took place while she was asleep inside.
Firefighters attended the scene of the latest blaze which saw all of Jenny and her boyfriend’s belongings, clothes, and medicine destroyed.
"If these attacks on us do not stop soon we are going to end up dead,” she told the Grimsby Telegraph.
“My partner and I have had the tents we were sleeping in, set on fire three times in the past couple of weeks and it has left us with absolutely nothing,” she said.
"A few days ago we were sleeping near to the town centre, when my boyfriend woke me up screaming, saying that we were on fire. The tent that we were in was completely ablaze, and the hot melted plastic was dripping down on top of us.”
Jenny fears that she is going to be killed and is covered in burn marks from the most recent fire https://t.co/OAL5jVoJMQ— Grimsby Live (@GrimsbyLive) August 20, 2019
The attacks have horrified the local community. Cath Homewood, who runs the Grimsby Food Kitchen – a non-profit serving food to homeless and vulnerable people in the town – said that she is "appalled” and think they should be investigated as arson.
"I am appalled by the attacks that have been happening on some of the homeless people living in our town recently,” Homewood said. "I cannot fathom how someone could go and set fire to someone's home like that, because when you are living on the streets, that tent is your home, and it’s the only thing that you have got.”
Homewood added that she hopes the incidents are being investigated before something tragic happens.
In the UK, attacks on homeless people are not currently registered as a hate crime but experts have called for this to change, as the Guardian reported in late 2018.
This would give law enforcement grounds to investigate such attacks as hate-motivated crimes in a similar way to race, religion, trans identity, sexual orientation, and disability-related hate crimes currently are.
The calls for change followed an investigation by the newspaper, which found that only a handful of police authorities record attacks against homeless people as a specific category.
The Guardian asked all 45 police forces for data and only nine responded with the information. Out of those nine, it was found that crimes recorded against people who were sleeping rough or had no fixed residence had risen from 493 in 2014 to 1,259 in 2018.
The Law Commission is currently undergoing a review of hate crime legislation that could widen the number of groups of people who are considered to have “protected characteristics” under hate crime law.
Attacks against homeless people such as the one that has happened in Grimsby show just how dangerous being homeless in the UK can be.
The social justice organisation, the Museum of Homelessness, has been keeping a running estimate of people dying while homeless in the UK and have recorded almost 1,000 deaths since the start of 2017, including among those sleeping rough or living in temporary hostels. On Aug. 14, they announced their latest figures, finding that on average someone dies while homeless every 19 hours in the UK.
In Grimsby, Jenny and her partner face an incredibly difficult situation following their ordeal, and are worried they may be killed. “My boyfriend has not slept since the last attack, because he is so worried that it might happen again,” Jenny said.
"We are homeless and have nowhere to go, and we have been trying our best to look after what we have left, but now even that is gone, because everything has been destroyed in these fires.”