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Homeless man whose sleeping bag was soaked by security guard speaks out

Footage of homeless man Aaron McCarthy went viral when his sleeping bag was soaked by a security guard outside a McDonalds in London. Now other homeless people have revealed similar incidents happening to them across the capital.

McDonalds has since apologised and bought new bedding for Aaron, but he says: “It’s not enough.”

He said: “At the time I accepted their apology, but now I want compensation for what happened. It wasn’t right.”

Aaron, 25, was born addicted to heroin due to his mother being on the substance while pregnant. He was adopted by new parents at ten months old and due to a fall out with his adoptive family, found himself homeless at age 17.

He believes it’s the reason he struggles with ADHD, post-traumatic stress disorder and borderline personality disorder.

His mother, who lives in Wales has seen the coverage of the incident and is “devastated” he says.

Now homeless people across London have told The Independent that the incident is not unique.

Aaron McCarthy says ‘it’s not enough' (The Independent)
Aaron McCarthy says ‘it’s not enough' (The Independent)

John Booth, 37, said he’d been attacked while rough sleeping and had his belongings soaked in the same place.

“It’s happened to me before, they treat us really badly. It’s discrimination. I’ve had water poured on me, I’ve been shoved and pushed.”

Last month there was outcry as Camden Council admitted to hiring workers to remove the tents of homeless people in a viral video which saw them being crushed in bin lorries.

Streets Kitchen, a grassroots organisation that work with rough sleepers said “it’s happening all across London.”

They report that the demand for their support has gone up fourfold since COVID from 30-40 people needing support in Camden to regularly seeing 100-130 people every week.

“There are too many instances to mention,” a spokesperson told The Independent.

“Hosing down happens all the time. We’ve been lucky to record it on occasion, and it was fortunate that someone was there to record what happened to Aaron. But it’s not an isolated incident at all.”

Homeless people also report instances when they are refused service due to “appearing homeless.”

Michael Docerty, 32, said he is regularly refused access to public services at big brands due to his appearance.

“Sometimes they won’t let me use the public toilet, because they can tell I’m homeless,” he said. “I’ve tried to buy a coffee before and have been refused because of how I look.”

Streets Kitchen said its a story they hear often.

“There is a dehumanising narrative around homeless people, where people believe it’s a ‘lifestyle choice’” they said.

“For them to be denied service, is part of dehumanisation in action. Some of the people wear COVID masks so they aren’t recognised. They find ways to make sure they don’t get abused when trying to get a coffee or something.”

They say that it is important to understand the causes of homelessness which are “complex”.

Keekee Docerty, 32, has stage three cancer and had to stop chemotherapy because she’s homeless and living outside a bank on Victoria Street.

Like many people who find themselves sleeping rough, it was a relationship breakdown that got her there.

“I’d left an abusive relationship,” she tells The Independent. “I got punished for it, meanwhile he has a house and everything else.”

She describes a life of horror on the streets. “I’ve been raped in doorways, I’ve been stabbed. Just yesterday, someone attacked me with a key.”

Her face is marked with bruises and deep gashes where the key perforated her skin.

Streets Kitchen advises bystanders to intervene if they see any action that harms homeless people taking place.

“Stop and check if the person is ok,” it said. “Behave like humans, we need to stop the othering.”

McDonalds released a statement on X following the incident and said: “The third-party security guards involved have been permanently removed from our restaurants and the restaurant team has been reminded of the importance of treating all people with respect, including vulnerable people both in the restaurant and within the wider community.

“We would like to wholeheartedly apologise to the gentleman in the video and will work with the council to locate him and make amends as part of our ongoing work to support homelessness charities in & around the area.”

In response to social housing campaigner Kwajo Tweneboa, the company said in a tweet on X: “We are working with Aaron, his key worker and the team at his supported accomodation alongside local charities on continued support.

“We met with him yesterday to apologise and provide some immediate support in a number of ways, but this is the start of that journey.”