A hotel has been criticised after a 'judgemental' worker turned two young homeless men away.
The pair – one of whom has cancer – were forced to spend another night sleeping rough as a result, despite a charity saying it paid for a room in their name.
Help for the Homeless says it booked a night at the Sneyd Arms Hotel in Stoke-on-Trent for the two friends, both in their 20s, to give them some respite from the wet and freezing weather.
The charity told Stoke-on-Trent Live they made the reservation through hotel management firm OYO with the £44 payment taken in advance.
But volunteer Sarah Steadman says that when she dropped them off at the hotel in Tunstall on Monday, an employee who she described as 'rude' and 'judgemental' refused to let them stay.
The incident left the two men, who had been 'bouncing' at the prospect of a bed and a shower, with no choice to sleep on the streets.
"I took them up and unpacked the car and took them inside. I was ringing the bell and a man eventually came to the desk," Sarah, a mum-of-two, explains.
"He looked us up and down.
"I explained we had a reservation but he looked at me blankly. He was insisting we hadn't booked a room even though payment had been taken by OYO.
"He then basically turned around and said we don't take the homeless.
"I was there a good half an hour trying to sort it out but in the end we had no choice but to leave.
"The lads were really upset. They were looking forward to having a bed and a shower. We'd sent them off with sachets of coffee and everything they needed.
"One of the lads has cancer and the other one also has health issues. It meant so much to them. They wouldn't have been any trouble.
"I had to drop them off back in Hanley. It was heartbreaking. I just felt so bad when I was going home to a warm bed."
Sarah, a shop manager who volunteers with the charity five days a week, says she was told that the hotel stopped accepting homeless guests when a new manager was brought in a year-and-a-half ago.
However the Sneyd Arms insists the booking was never received and that they are happy to accept the homeless, providing they abide by the 'house rules'.
OYO said that it received the booking and that it had been logged as a 'no-show'.
OYO has since refunded the money.
Help for the Homeless's founder, Jeannette Jackson, said she was "disgusted" to hear the lads, who would have been "no bother", had been turned away.
The 54-year-old said: "A friend of ours had booked the hotel.
"We arranged for these two lads to go because we knew they wouldn't have been any bother.
"It would have been really nice for him to sleep in a bed for a night and have a proper bath or a shower and just be pampered for a change.
"They weren't that scruffy or dirty. We are utterly disgusted.
"They ended up back on the streets with only the clothes they had on as they'd already stored their sleeping bag and mats at the Norsaca Church in Hanley for the night ready to pick up the next day.
"Sarah was beside herself. The lads were absolutely gutted. It's just not fair. They had built themselves up only to be let down.
"There's only one place that takes the homeless now in the whole of Stoke-on-Trent."
Deb Oakes, another volunteer with Help for the Homeless, urged people to have more empathy.
"These two lads were absolutely bouncing that they were going to get a bed for the night. And then to be knocked back is just devastating," she said.
"It's heartbreaking. Nobody should judge someone because you never know what that person's been through.
"They each have their own story to tell. People should have a bit more empathy."
A Sneyd Arms spokesman said: "The problem was we never received the booking. I don't how the mistake was made but it never came through.
"We are happy to have the homeless stay so long as they abide by our house rules such as no drugs, smoking and no damage."
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