NO-GO areas are being created by drug-addled rough sleepers who are creating “ghettos” where people are afraid to go to at night.

Residents say Southend High Street has become too dangerous to venture into after dark as drunk and drugged rough sleepers congregate in shop doorways.

Squatters have also set up camp in tents behind derelict buildings in Pleasant Road.

One terrified mother said a man known to live there persuaded her 12-year-old son and a friend to go with him to a disused building in Stanley Road on Sunday.

Sarah Sini, 40, of Pleasant Road, said: “My son has got dyslexia and learning difficulties. This man persuaded him to go to this building with his friend. He said he was building a “youth centre” there where he was going to “teach them right from wrong”.

“I only found out because my son’s friend told his mum because he wasn’t sure about it, but my boy thinks this man is genuine.”

Mrs Sini added: “This man is well known and lives in a tent behind the empty buildings near the Kursaal. He howls at people.

“I was so shocked when I heard he had taken the boys to this place. I called the police on Wednesday morning when I heard but they didn’t come.

“They said there wasn’t much they could do as a crime hadn’t been committed.

“I can’t believe that this man can lure young boys into derelict buildings and get away with it. It’s not safe for anyone let alone children anymore.”

Mary Perkin, 59, of Alexandra Road, Southend said she won’t walk down the High Street after dark after being accosted by drunks.

She said: “I went out with some friends recently. It was a nice evening and we walked to the Pipe of Port. We were accosted three times on the way there and three times on the way back. Drunk beggars are making the town a ghetto. You can’t walk in the High Street after 7.30pm.

“I want to know what the council is doing. They have officers earning six-figure sums but what are they doing for it?

“I have a lot of sympathy for the genuine homeless people who have mental health problems but some of these people hang about in car parks at the back of M&S all day and they are off their faces. I’m appalled at the apathy of the council.”

Mark Flewitt, councillor responsible for housing, said:“We would encourage anyone that is homeless in the borough to engage with us and our partners to see what help and support we can provide under our statutory duty.

“Our aim is to prevent homelessness whenever possible and we find it unacceptable that anyone should have to be street homeless in the 21st century.  However it must be remembered that the criteria for who qualifies for social housing and assistance with homelessness, is largely set by the Government in the Housing Act 1996, and local councils administer this."

Mr Flewitt added: “Social housing is in increasingly short supply and high demand in Southend and elsewhere in the country and it is a constant challenge to prioritise housing as fairly as possible.

“We assist hundreds of people every year who are either homeless, or threatened with homelessness.  We liaise with landlords, mediate with family members, provide temporary accommodation, assist people in to supported housing, source properties and provide loans to help people move in to settled accommodation. "

A spokesperson for Essex Police said: "We were contacted shortly before 8.20am on September 21 by a member of the public who had raised concerns about a man who had been in contact with children
"This was passed to officers, who are making inquiries, and arrangements are in place to speak to the children concerned to obtain further information.
"We would urge anyone with concerns to contact police so that we can offer suitable advice."