Vicar's concerns over 'hugely vulnerable' rough sleepers
- Credit: John Elworthy/Archant
A vicar is worried that if no action is taken now to help “hugely vulnerable” rough sleepers camping in the town, the situation could spiral out of control.
The Rev Canon Matthew Bradbury shared his concerns after around two to three people have set up tents on the old vicarage gardens in Wisbech on Friday, April 16.
“By and large, they are no trouble, but it’s worrying to see people sleeping rough,” he said.
“I think they’ve been there for probably a fortnight, certainly a week.”
Canon Bradbury, vicar of St Peter & St Paul’s and St Augustine’s Church in Wisbech, first became aware of people arriving at the gardens four years ago.
He has also noticed more rough sleepers attend the area during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I guess in terms of tents, this has gone on for two to three years but they’re not there all the time,” he said.
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“It’s what the problem could turn into, not what it is like now. We’ve got rough sleepers now and other people come along and chat loudly.
“They are hugely vulnerable."
Homeless champion Simon Crowson has since offered his support for Canon Bradbury to help the rough sleepers move into permanent accommodation.
It is believed at least some of the rough sleepers living in the old vicarage gardens left hotel accommodation provided by Fenland District Council after their subsidies expired.
There have also been issues on the security of the gardens since 2017, after Canon Bradbury’s request to past owners South Staffordshire and Shropshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust (SSSFT) to install fencing around the perimeter was not upheld.
“I’m concerned that the piece of land is being used for something it’s not designed for,” he said.
“It’s difficult as one’s heart goes out to the homeless and it’s important they are cared for. By the same token, they put themselves in places that are risky.
“The bottom line is that nobody should be homeless, but if they are, this is not a nice place to be right on the edge of a public car park in the middle of town.
“I highly regret people having to sleep anywhere in tents and it is not appropriate for rough sleepers.”
A spokesperson for Fenland District Council said it was aware of a "small number of people" camping on private land near St Peter's Church, but was unable to state why they are rough sleeping due to data protection legislation.
They said: "We are continuing to try and engage with them to offer the appropriate help and support that they need.”