St Alban the Martyr Church in St John’s Road, Westcliff, has sent a note to residents nearby saying it “urgently wants to do whatever it can to stop” people sleeping and drinking in its porches.No, it doesn’t mean its parishioners! It means the homeless.
Which prompts a flood of angry comments insisting the church should be more ‘charitable’, though just how many of them would be happy to have these people living in their porches, it’s hard to say…
The Rev Phyllis Owen, associate minister at the Grade II listed church, said: “I’ve been at St Alban’s for eight years.
“When I first came here, in the middle of winter when it was particularly cold or wet, you would sometimes get a couple of people in the porch.
“I would say to them, ‘you can’t stay here’, and they would leave after a couple of days.
“But in the last two or three months, we have had a lot of complaints from neighbours about noise. Police have even had to be called.”The situation in Southend has been getting steadily worse in the past few years. Rarely a day goes by when there are not at least 5/6 ‘rough sleepers’ begging (or demanding!) change from passers-by in the high street.
She added she is trying to work with other services, including the homeless charity, Harp, in Southend, to get the homeless people help.
She claimed she had also been told one of the rough sleepers had been offered permanent accommodation and help, but preferred to stay in the porch.Bring back the Vagrancy Act!