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More people than ever are being forced to sleep on the streets of Aldershot, according to homeless men who say they feel like "ghosts".
Hidden in empty outbuildings, doorways and stairwells, people with no home to go to set up makeshift beds for the night and are now a common sight for those who know where to look.
Neil Robinson, 36, homeless since January, often turns to stairwells outside shopping centres or multi-storey car parks when no other shelter is available.
Some councillors have reported an increase in the number of people sleeping rough in recent months and Mr Robinson said: “I’ve seen that out there. It’s worse than ever.”
He and companion Martyn Hobden, 26, who stick with one another for safety and company, contradict many people’s stereotype of the homeless in that they do not drink and refuse to resort to stealing or drug-taking. Tobacco is their one indulgence. Mr Robinson said he would rather beg than steal, while Mr Hobden refuses to do either.
A typical day involves getting up at 8.30am, seeking out public buildings such as libraries for warmth and then heading to the Vine day centre – a charity supporting homeless and vulnerable adults – for food or conversation. Sometimes they sit in the town centre, where occasionally generous people offer to buy them food.
They say that by looking closely it is easy to spot Aldershot’s homeless, but feel many are unaware of the scale of the problem.
“You’re like a ghost,” said Mr Robinson. “It’s a lonely old place and it can be a scary place too. You sleep with one eye open.”
Mr Hobden added: “If you’ve not got a friend’s place to go, you will be walking the streets. There is a chance you will be robbed. You’re vulnerable in that all your belongings are easy pickings. I don't trust anyone.”
Mr Robinson admits the decision to become homeless was his, after he became frustrated by disturbances at the bedsit he was offered by the council after splitting up with his wife. He lost his job at Tesco due to a back injury.
Mr Hobden, a former warehouse machine operator, said problems with drink and drugs in his younger days led to his present situation. Both men hope to eventually gain accommodation and employment.
Both were also grateful to the Vine centre for giving them the lifeline of food and basic items like rucksacks and sleeping mats.
“I’d be in the gutter without this place,” said Mr Hobden. “I would have given up on myself.”
Other items are paid for using out-of-work benefits the pair receive.
A Rushmoor Borough Council spokesman said, like all local authorities, it had a duty to provide accommodation for those sleeping rough during severe weather, and helped more than 30 homeless people between January and April.
A Winter Watch scheme, run with the Vine and Homeless Link, was also set up last winter to provide night shelter in freezing temperatures.
Mags Mercer, CEO at the Vine, said: “The situation is down to a shortage of housing and that’s something I’m working on as a long-term strategy with the council, which is doing everything it can to help.”