Bailiffs close homeless camp and threaten to sell tents left behind
- Credit: Cllr Dave Patrick
Bailiffs fenced off a homeless camp site in Wisbech, leaving behind a notice pinned to the heavily fortified area to sell off “tents and chattels” left behind.
The actions, threatened by Fenland District Council in July, became a reality as the enforcement team moved in.
Up to 15 or 16 homeless people were living in the closed off space known as the Old Vicarage in Church Terrace.
Homeless campaigner Simon Crowson said last night it was going to be “a cold wet time for many”.
Mr Crowson, who with the Salvation Army provides up to 50 hot meals a night for rough sleepers, said closure of the camp left the problem of homelessness unresolved.
“One of the large camps has been closed down today and fenced off, trapping lots of the tents and bedding inside,” he said.
Mr Crowson said since the pandemic began individual help and support with accommodation had been provided.
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But that ended and those housed temporarily in hotels had been asked to leave and “now forced to leave a camp.
“Where do they go now? Some people would not know compassion if it smacked them in the face.”
Mr Crowson said Fenland Council had promised to provide individual support and long term homes to many of the rough sleepers “for which there was millions of pounds in funds provided.
“Most were then evicted from the hotels and back onto the streets or returned to a hostel where they previously failed.
“If that's not bad enough they are then evicted from their rough sleeping camp with most of the camping equipment locked inside.”
He predicted “you will now start to get lots of problems with them camping in parks, graveyards and sports fields as they have nowhere else to go.
“Many are angry at the way they have been led on and lied to and rightly so.
“These include people with physical disabilities and serious mental health issues.
“Where have the millions been spent, and how has it helped them into a better position when they are still rough sleeping?
“When are the council going to provide them with proper facilities or even a toilet they can use?”
The unofficial camp was next to the privately owned Inspiration House in Church Terrace, which was at one time a vicarage and more recently the town’s registry office.
The house is let to the charity Change Grow Live which provides an alcohol and drug rehabilitation service.
However, the grounds were ‘taken over’ by homeless individuals and couples.
In July the council said that “due to reports of persistent anti-social behaviour and nuisance, a closure order is being considered”
That said at the time it was “one of a number of options being looked as a way of improving the situation”.
The spokesperson said that part of the process leading to seeking a closure order/notice is “warning and consultation”.
The potential order had been mentioned at a town council meeting by Cllr Sam Hoy, who is also the portfolio holder for housing at Fenland Council.
Mr Crowson said the ages of those living there range from the late 20s to others in their 60s.
He believes one solution could be to provide officials camps for homeless, in the same way the Government provides accommodation for asylum seekers.
Revd Canon Matthew Bradbury is vicar of St Peter and St Paul’s, lives nearby, and has seen the encampment grow.
He has previously welcomed a closure order providing the owners of Inspiration House put suitable security fencing around the grounds “which would make the centre of town of town a safer place”.
He believes it is a much wider problem and for society as a whole to accept responsibility.
“I am sure if it was straightforward then Fenland Council would have solved it in the twinkling of an eye,” he said.
Fenland District Council has been approached for a comment.