TENANTS living in Southend’s town centre tower blocks say stairwells are no-go areas at night because homeless people are using them to inject drugs and crash out.
Drug addicts and alcoholics get into the four 15-storey flats blocks on the Queensway estate at night, before getting drunk and sleeping it off on stairwells and landings.
Blood, used syringes, empty beer cans, cigarette butts and even urine are regularly found by cleaners in the morning.
Dead of night: Drug users enter tower blocks in the early hours
Inside Malvern flats, our reporter found a homeless man on the stairwell of the 13th floor who appeared to have injected heroin.
It is a regular sight, according to residents, who are demanding 24-hour security to keep vagrants out.
Residents say the problems are making their lives a misery in the Quantock, Chiltern, Malvern and Pennine blocks, with noisy antisocial behaviour and urinesoaked stairwells.
The Southend Council tenants claim the problems have become so bad, they are scared to use the stairs and landings after dark.
Discarded: used syringe on stairwell
Rose Chapman, 81, who lives at Quantock, said: “It is terrible – you would not go up the stairs at night.
“They use the landing on the 15th floor and the stairwells to drink, take drugs and then crash in sleeping bags. You can hear the noise when they are up there shouting and drunk.
“The only way to stop this is to have security on the door night and day, because even if the locks did all work, they hang around until someone comes out and then slip in.”
A councillor has pledged to take action after an Echo reporter was able to get into the tower blocks due to faulty locks.
Shocked: Ian Gilbert
Ian Gilbert, Labour Victoria ward councillor, who has campaigned for improvements on the estate, said: “I am shocked at the state of the entry system.
“You would expect the occasional fault, but to be able to get into all four is inexcusable. I will take this up with South Essex Homes.”
Rough sleeper: sleeping bag stashed for next night?
Itcomes a week after the Echo revealed South Essex Homes, which manages the blocks for Southend Council, had allowed tenants to leave Quantock flats without handing back 371 active key fobs. They have since been disabled and investigations into outstanding key fobs are being carried out.
View from the top: Inside Malvern flats
The council and South Essex Homes insist they are tackling the problem of homeless people getting into the flats.
In a joint statement, they said: “South Essex Homes and council officers are working closely with Essex Police to address the issues of rough sleepers in Southend and this includes specifically the four town centre blocks. This is an ongoing initiative.
“The security of all high-rise blocks has always featured highly for both South Essex Homes and the council, and we have worked closely with residents from the whole community through the Community Circle initiative.
“This led to the installation of CCTV in all lifts in the four blocks last year. Residents have commented at the improvement this has bought about.”
High rise living: Chiltern flats
An Echo reporter who investigated the tower blocks found a homeless man who had spent the night on the stairwell of Malvern Flats.
He was seen at 6.15am sitting on stairs near a small pool of blood.
The man, who appeared to be in his forties, said he was there because he has homeless.
He said: “I have been sitting here freezing since 2am. I’m homeless after
my bird kicked me out. I tried the Harp hostel, but was too late to get in.
This was the only place I could go.”
Night on the tiles: left strong cider can
Caught short: Pools of urine on stairwells
The man disappeared, leaving behind a used syringe. On the next flight of stairs there were a number of pools of urine and more blood spots.
A buzzer system on the entrances to each block is supposed to prevent all but registered occupants getting in.
Easy access: our reporter finds Quantock door open
However, our reporter got in to all four unchallenged, as there was a door that could be opened on the ground floor at either the front or back in each case, and was even helped by staff working on the blocks.
Cleaning staff let our reporter in the front entrance of one block despite him having no fob.
The same day he also found the front door to Quantock flats open.
Inside, there was evidence of drinking, drug taking and sleeping in communal areas from the night before.
In the stairwell next to the 15th floor there was a sleeping bag tucked over a railing.
King size: dropped cigarette paper
There were several pools of urine on the stairs and one of the landings as well as cigarette butts.
Evidence of possible cannabis smoking could also be seen.
When asked if 24-hour security across the blocks to control entry was a
possibility, the council and South Essex Homes refused to comment.
A South Essex Homes spokesman said: “The highrise blocks receive a seven
days a week service from South Essex Homes caretaking team and one of
the reasons for this is to ensure that the blocks are cleaned every morning.
“Any suspected drug use and paraphernalia are responded to and removed as a matter of urgency.”