Council bosses have promised to replace a tent they confiscated from a homeless Accrington man.
John Walsh, well known in the town as ‘Johnno’, was furious after Hyndburn council removed his personal valuables, including paintings, books and music, just hours after telling him he would need to move on.
It’s the second time he has lost his belongings after they were destroyed in a fire outside the former tax office on Eastgate last year.
Johnno claimed he was being ‘persecuted’ but the council blamed their actions on a ‘misunderstanding’.
Johnno, 50, was living in a tent under the railway viaduct when he was approached by council staff last Thursday and told to move.
The former postman and Express Gifts worker claims he was given until 2pm the same day to move or face a fine and removal of his lifeline possessions.
"However, when he returned before the deadline all his belongings had vanished.
He said: “I was furious and couldn’t speak properly. I was under the viaduct.
“Nobody could see me. I kept it nice and tidy and put all my rubbish in the bin. I couldn’t have asked for a better tent
“I slept really well for a change as it kept me warm.”
He added: “It just makes me more angry. Everybody knows me in Accrington and I have got a lot of friends but the council feel they have to take my stuff. I’m being persecuted and I have done nothing wrong.”
Johnno’s friend Brian Thomas said they want ‘justice’.
The 36-year-old from Accrington said: “I don’t agree with what the council have done and the reasons for it.
"He’s not causing any trouble. He’s – as some people might say – out of sight and out of mind.”
In a statement, Hyndburn council said they would replace the confiscated belongings.
A spokesperson added: “The King Street roundabout is an unsafe environment and a member of the parks team asked Mr Walsh to remove his items.
“Later in the day a different team, who were unaware of the previous conversation, returned, and thinking the items there had been abandoned, removed them.
“This was a genuine misunderstanding and we’ll be making sure that the items are replaced.
“In the meantime we would urge Mr Walsh to use the services of our homeless team, who are keen and more than willing to help him find suitable accommodation.
“Our housing and homelessness team work hard to help anyone experiencing homelessness in the borough, and, through our colleagues at Maundy Relief, we’ve offered to help Mr Walsh on many, many occasions, with access to the night shelter and suitable accommodation through our Key Scheme, which he’s always declined.”
The Observer reported in February 2015 how residents in Hyndburn rallied round to help Johnno after he lost his possessions in a fire.