A 'TENT town' where homeless people were living has been broken up by police after reports of a stabbing, which had apparently led to some rough sleepers arming themselves.

Having obtained a dispersal order for the ‘tent town’ – which lies along the tow path off New Road and across the River Severn from Diglis House Hotel – 10 officers descended on the camp yesterday morning.

Led by Sergeant Carl Jones and accompanied by three Maggs Day Centre outreach and transition (MOAT) staff, the officers removed around half a dozen rough sleepers from 7am.

Members of the camp were told to remove their belongings within an hour and were warned that if they returned within 48 hours they risked being arrested.

Sgt Jones said the action was the result of weeks of communication between police, Maggs, the city council and those at the camp itself – with the message “enough is enough”.

The land is privately-owned by Worcester Cathedral, however, the sergeant said it is open to the public for clear and ready access, meaning “a lot of our legislation kicks in and we can do this today”.

“The cathedral is aware that we’re doing it, but it’s as much about risk to the individuals living down here as it is to anybody else,” Sgt Jones continued.

“For example, we have a report that someone may have been stabbed last week – in fact, we are pretty sure somebody was.

“But as is so often the case, people don’t want to talk to the police about it. So, we’re concerned about that."

He said: “We’ve heard from various sources that, because of that, maybe some of the rough sleepers are arming themselves for protection. Obviously that’s an offence – you can understand why they might do that – but it’s an offence.”

Police searched all members of the camp during the dispersal but did not find anything they could be certain was being used as a weapon.

However, some of the rough sleepers had already left the camp, having been given prior warning the raid was taking place.

On top of this, paramedics have also been called to the site over the last week to reports of people struggling with legal highs, such as Mamba, he said.

“It’s very difficult for paramedics to deal with”, said Sgt Jones. “Paramedics can’t get through that gate and they have instead got to walk 250 yards to someone that might be seriously ill.”

He said members of the council’s cleaner and greener team have been down to the site to ensure there are no sanitary issues and “they’ve been threatened, abused and told to go away”.

With the path used by dogwalkers, cyclists, joggers and people going to work, every day, Sgt Jones said removing the camp means “we can now make sure there is no risk”.

He said his team carry out dispersal orders in the city centre on a regular basis but this one “didn’t fit for a long time”.

The campers were trespassing, but Sgt Jones said that is not a police matter.

“It was just a group of rough sleepers who weren’t doing anything to break the criminal law, as it were,” he explained.

Initially, the police had been working with their partners to ensure members of the camp were getting support to get housed, so that the camp would disband naturally.

But, Sgt Jones continued: “Others have joined the group and there’s been more anti-social behaviour and more criminal action.”

Asked where police expect the camp members to go, the sergeant said some have already got housing available for them, while others are part of an “ongoing process”.

“There is a gap for some people, undoubtedly, that’s why we’re all trying to work it together.

“Homelessness is not a police issue, it’s when you get these additional issues when it becomes a police issue,” he added.

Jonathan Sutton, who runs St Paul’s Hostel, was also at the site on Monday morning, and said: “What’s the solution? The poor police are caught between a rock and a hard place.”

Referring to Diglis House Hotel, which has full view of the camp, he said: “It’s a real contrast when you see one of the nicest hotels around across there, you can imagine people having a breakfast in there, with orange juice – then you’ve got this. It’s the way of the world."

He continued: “There’s more to it than homelessness, but it should motivate us to re-double our efforts and find a solution for this.

“There are complicated stories – it’s more than about what the public just see.

“It’s much more than people living in a tent – there’s more gone on with their lives that has led them to be here. The unravelling of that is the complicated and the hard bit for everybody.”

One member of the camp, who did not wish to be named, said he is currently on probation for a drug-related offence and has lost touch with most of his family – many of whom are in prison.

The man, aged 24, is a father and said he worries with the break up of the camp he’ll “end up back in jail”.

“I’ll be back in jail within three weeks, I bet you,” he said.

“Coming out of prison, they don’t give you somewhere straight away. You’re stuck in that same situation – it’s a revolving door.”

He said he will continue to look for a job and potentially move back to Birmingham, where he’s originally from, to stay away from various bad influences in Worcester.

Another homeless man said he was upset the camp was being shut down but admitted there were some who often frequented the site that were causing issues.

Sgt Jones said he was aware of one homeless man who is known to rob other rough sleepers of their money.

“It never gets reported, but we know,” he added.

Mr Sutton said: “Some people are just not in the right mindset to want to get the help they need. It’s not a choice to be homeless, nobody wants that choice.”

Flora McNerney, a Maggs outreach worker, said her and her team have been coming down to the camp daily to meet with the rough sleepers, often alongside PCSOs – and will continue to offer support at the day centre.

“We will continue to do what we have been doing which is giving them regular counselling, giving them pathway plans and support that they need to access accommodation because it’s not easy to get into a house,” she said.

“All of us coming down rather than just one of us is better, that group relationship where they know the police aren’t here to given them hassle is the best solution."

“They knew that this was going to happen last week, they had a heads up,” she added.