McDonald’s has apologised after a security guard was filmed mopping the pavement where a homeless man was sitting and soaking his sleeping bag with water.
Footage of the incident on London’s Victoria Street on Saturday night showed the security guard splashing more water onto a large puddle running underneath where the man had been sitting outside a Nationwide bank next door to the fast food restaurant.
At one point in the clip, the security guard could be seen using his foot to kick the man’s blanket out of his way, as he tried to move his sleeping bag away from the water.
The security guard was challenged by several members of the public, who called their treatment of the man “disgusting” and “bang out of order”.
Damon Evans, who took the footage and shared it to social media, tagged McDonald’s as he wrote: “Do you think it is acceptable for your staff to soak the sleeping bags of homeless people in the middle of winter (or any other time of the year)?
“Disgusting behaviour. He wasn’t even outside your premises.”
A weather warning was in force in London on Saturday night, as residents faced strong winds, with gusts of up to 40mph in single-digit temperatures.
McDonald’s said on Sunday it was “shocked and saddened” by the incident and said the third-party security guards involved had been sacked.
“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,” a spokesperson said in a statement.
“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 and around the area.”
There were more than 4,000 people found to be sleeping rough in London between July and September, multi-agency figures show – the highest quarterly total outside a pandemic since records began, after a 12 per cent increase in a year.
Half of those were sleeping rough for the first time, while close to 500 were deemed to be living on the streets long-term.
“It’s appalling to see someone sleeping rough treated so callously. But unfortunately, it’s not a surprise,” Francesca Albanese, executive director of policy and social change at Crisis, told The Independent.
“Crisis hears all the time from people sleeping rough about how dehumanising the experience can be, leaving serious and lasting trauma,” said Ms Albanese. “This is a compassionate country – and there needs to be an acknowledgement and understanding that people sleeping on the streets deserve, like all of us, to be treated with kindness.”
According to the charity’s research, rough sleepers are nearly 17 times more likely to have been victims of violence compared to the general public.
Warning that rough sleeping is on the rise across England, with government plans for more punitive measures to address rough sleeping in the Crime and Justice Bill set to “only make things worse”, she added: “Runaway rents, the rising cost of living and a dire shortage of genuinely affordable housing is leaving people unable to find and keep a home.
“We need more social housing and support services so that no one is forced onto the streets in the first place.”