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Elderly and vulnerable people living in a Leigh retirement housing complex say they have been subjected to “appalling” levels of violence, antisocial behaviour and neglect.
A growing number of incidents sparked by “drunkenness and mental health issues” at Yantlet, in London Road, came to a head on August 1 when armed police swarmed the building to tackle a man allegedly in possession of a bow and arrows.
Residents in the properties, which are managed by South Essex Homes, say they were ordered into lockdown as armed officers, a helicopter, drone, seven police cars and 15 other police officers attended the scene.
In a separate incident on Sunday, August 13, a resident was left with a cut to her face and a bruised eye. A woman was arrested but no-one was charged.
In April, a resident allegedly started “throwing knives” at a neighbouring building and destroyed a painstakingly cared-for garden.
Leslie Parris, chairman of the Yantlet’s residents’ association said: “There are two main problems. One is a failure to vet who is coming into the property, bearing in mind it’s a sheltered housing scheme.
“The second problem is the alleged counselling that South Essex Homes is giving. A tenant who caused £1,500 of damage through a mental breakdown was receiving visits from South Essex Homes ‘mentors’. They are tenancy officers. They are not social workers.”
Residents also claim youths have been breaking into the grounds and stairwells.
Mr Parris, 73, added: “It’s a policy to integrate people into society and I wholly agree with it, but they need to be managed by professionals who can identify key points that show it isn’t working and it needs to be taken to another stage. That’s never happened.
“We are happy to have people as neighbours who have mental or physical issues.
“We will integrate them into our social life, our barbecues, our meetings, our bingo, and fish and chip supper nights.
“But if they are not monitored properly by professionals, and an incident escalates, that’s down to SEH.”
General neglect of the building is also adding to residents’ woes. A careline system installed in 1963 often sends false alerts, residents have claimed.
The housing management firm has insisted it is aware of “vexatious and abusive” issues and is working hard to tackle them.
South Essex Homes, which manages Leigh’s Yantlet sheltered housing scheme on behalf of Southend Council, has stated it is working with authorities to prevent problems which have seen police called multiple times in recent months.
Sarah Lander, director of operations at South Essex Homes said: “We have been working closely with local partner agencies including health services, social care, Essex County Fire and Rescue Service and Essex Police to deal with issues at Yantlet.
“We have been following all reasonable processes to support vulnerable residents but have also been taking reparative action where appropriate.
“In one specific case, South Essex Homes had started the legal process to address breaches of conditions of tenancy and a court date was scheduled. However, this was adjourned pending the outcome of a more recent incident at the block.”
Despite recent issues, South Essex Homes has insisted issues are “rare” and tackled accordingly.
Ms Lander added: “There are relatively rare occasions where South Essex Homes must manage excessive, repetitive or vexatious contact from individual residents, but such incidents would not normally also be dealt with as a breach of tenancy conditions.
“However, where the nature of the vexatious behaviour is considered abusive, threatening or causes alarm and distress to staff carrying out their duties, then this could constitute a tenancy breach. In such circumstances, South Essex Homes does not withdraw housing services from any individual tenant, but we may need to adjust how we communicate with them.”
Addressing issues with maintenance of the facilities at Yantlet, Ms Lander said: “South Essex Homes is aware that some residents have had issues with the door entry and community alarm system at the block and we are currently investigating and costing the potential options for works.
“We are also aware of some incidents with people accessing the garden at the block and have been liaising with colleagues in Essex Police and the council’s community safety team to identify individuals and take appropriate action. A multi-agency community safety pop up event was carried out in July at The Elms pub, directly opposite the block, and residents were invited to discuss any concerns with staff from various organisations who supported the event.”
A man has been charged and is set to appear in court over an alleged incident at a sheltered housing scheme.
Armed police and dozens of emergency services descended on the Yantlet sheltered housing scheme on August 1after reports of a man armed with a bow and arrow.
Daniel Cousins 62, of London Road, Leigh has now been charged with possession of an offensive weapon and two counts of criminal damage
He will next appear at Basildon Magistrates Court on September 6.