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Homeless campers evicted from Ipswich graveyard

November 07 2011
Rough sleepers disrupt worshippers and highlight need for a night shelter


Homeless campers at an Ipswich graveyard are to be evicted over concerns that a recent rise in the number of rough sleepers is disrupting worshippers.

Up to 11 people have been camping out at St Margaret’s Church in Ipswich but, due to a lack of facilities and the recent escalation in activity and noise, the church can no longer accommodate the campers.

The Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich are working with Ipswich Borough Council to resolve the situation and said that a solution would be reached to ensure that more suitable facilities are made available.

Although the Ipswich Borough Council maintains that homelessness has not been increasing, there are concerns over a lack of night shelters in the area. John Howard, Press Officer for the St Edmundsbury and Ipswich Diocese told The Pavement; "I think a there is a need for a night centre in the town. There are no facilities in the churchyard for those sleeping rough like Oskar, who is one of those who has been staying here, and there are no toilets or washing facilities.”

At present there are 318 beds for homeless persons provided by hostels in Ipswich and the council are hoping to open a facility that provides support for independent living in 2012.

Mr Howard maintains that eviction was the last resort and that those camping there would be given time to leave.

“I feel really sad that anyone needs to sleep rough in Ipswich, particularly as the weather deteriorates, but this is not an appropriate place to house people - or the right use for a churchyard - and the numbers of people setting up camp has grown,” he said. “Those with loved ones buried in the churchyard need to be able to visit their family’s graves in complete peace. Having people camp within the churchyard is not conducive to that.”

Mr Howard added that the vicar of St Margaret’s, Reverend David Cutts has “visited those living in tents within the churchyard and explained to them that they will have to move on, and they have accepted this.”

A spokesperson from The Salvation Army said that despite the current problem they have not seen an influx in homeless men to their men-only 39 bed centre in Ipswich.

“Most people tend to stay for a year but we have not been oversubscribed recently. We have a night team but there is always a need for more shelters, especially coming up to winter.”

Ipswich Borough Council told The Pavement it provides emergency beds all year round and is working with agencies to provide appropriate accommodation for those in the event of severe weather. Ipswich Borough Council spokesperson, Pete Whittall, told us: “The Council is mindful of the current economic climate and the changes to the Housing Benefit system and is closely monitoring the situation as regards to people becoming threatened with homelessness.

“A number of facilities are provided for homeless people in the area, such as the community resource centre, soup kitchens, health outreach surgeries and substance misuse programmes.”