Here’s sobering reading as we move into winter. Although there are more people homeless in town, Canterbury’s churches contribute to caring for them and moving them on in positive way, including through ‘Catching Lives’, a local charity, and, in past years, collaborating to provide the Night Shelter in different halls through the Winter. Some people are difficult to engage with, and sometimes a little more is needed than leaving it to the experts. From the Benefice Annual Report for Saints Dunstan, Mildred and Peter, regarding last winter.
We met with Toby Coburn of Kent Police regarding B, a homeless man, who had taken up long term residency in a tent in the Churchyard. After several warnings from the Rector about his behaviour, an eviction note was left for him by Toby who made it clear that the Churchyard was not appropriate for anyone who is homeless. He moved on without any trouble.
Prior to this, Amos, who had previously been camping in the Churchyard before finding accommodation, had worked hard to tidy up the Churchyard. Following B’s departure, he cleared all the rubbish left by B, he reseeded a large area, cut back the undergrowth and overgrowth, planted shrubs, cleared the ground gutters and removed weeds and ivy and set about maintaining the Churchyard in general whilst attending a horticultural course.
His presence also acts as a deterrent to anyone wishing to take up residence in the Churchyard although on the 19th November, a little tent was erected in the churchyard near the entrance and clearly visible. The occupant who was known to Catching Lives and the Street Pastor then moved to the back where the tent could not be seen from outside. Once the night shelter was operating, he was encouraged to vacate the Churchyard.
Unfortunately damage is done to the walls of the Churchyard by people climbing over to gain access. We are very grateful to Amos for all his hard work.
We continue to try to keep rough sleepers from camping in the Churchyard, particularly as it is easy for them to damage the walls by climbing over as this is the only way they can get into the Churchyard. We try to direct them to various organisations for their safety and well being.
Rachel Cameron and Revd Jo Richards