Christ Church Chiswick want homeless people camped on their land moved on

Image above: Tents outside Christ Church, Turnham Green

Over the past few weeks a small encampment of tents has grown up against the wall of Christ Church on Turnham Green. The occupiers, rough sleepers, have so far turned down approaches by LB Hounslow’s Outreach team and charities to persuade them to move elsewhere and have indicated they have every intention of staying put.

The Church is not happy with the situation. Although Turnham Green is public land, the bit immediately around the church belongs to Christ Church. They have tried to persuade the rough sleepers to go elsewhere, not least because they say they use the drains as their toilet. But so far conversations with the Council’s support team for homeless people and the charity St Mungo’s have not helped and the Church say the police have told them they cannot move the rough sleepers on either.

“There are a growing number of tents occupied by a number of homeless people on Christ Church W4 land on Turnham Green, which is causing increasing concern to the community” the Church told The Chiswick Calendar.

“The situation poses some hygiene problems and potential safeguarding risks”

The Church’s statement continues:

“Christ Church W4 are also particularly concerned about the welfare of the occupants and wish to ensure their safety. The situation poses some hygiene problems and potential safeguarding risks to the many children’s and youth activities that happen in the church throughout the week. In addition, the Church needs to access the area for scheduled safety maintenance work on the walls.

“Over the past six weeks, many efforts have been made to resolve the situation, as well as Christ Church W4’s own commitment to supporting those struggling with homelessness through the Shelter programme. Christ Church W4 have liaised with and sought the advice of colleagues in the Diocese of London, Hounslow Council, the police and a number of homeless charities.

“These efforts have included working closely with charities, who have offered to help find these individuals a safe place to call home. Unfortunately, these offers have not been taken up as of yet. It is nonetheless hoped that this dialogue leads to a more positive and constructive solution, one that provides a safe, permanent and suitable place for them to be.

“While this dialogue carries on and Christ Church W4 continues to liaise with the partners identified above, it is hoped that the Church does not need to go down a legal route. Christ Church W4 wishes to reassure the public that they are working hard to resolve this situation in a sensitive manner and wish to express their thanks go to the Council and charities that are supporting the Church in this matter.”

Image above: Tents outside Christ Church, Turnham Green

Cllr Hanif Khan says attempts by the Council to resolve the situation are ongoing

Cllr Hanif Khan, Cabinet Member of Hounslow Council, has raised the issue with Council’s Safer Communities operations team, which includes both the Outreach team who meet homeless people on the street to find them accommodation, and police in the borough. He has also raised it with fellow Cabinet Member Cllr Katherine Dunne, the lead councillor responsible for housing homeless people.

Cllr Khan confirmed to The Chiswick Calendar that St Mungo’s have been in touch with the council’s Safer Communities team and that the three agencies are continuing to work together to resolve the situation. He has also been in touch with Christ Church to offer his help in liaising with council officials and the police.

Cllr Khan is standing as a candidate for Labour in Chiswick Gunnersbury ward, which includes Turnham Green, in the May elections.

Huge increase in homelessness expected

The Chiswick Calendar has not been able to speak to the rough sleepers.

The charity Crisis estimates there are some 227,000 people rough sleeping, sleeping in vans and sheds, and stuck in B&Bs – across England, Scotland and Wales.

The Government made a public pledge in December 2019 to end homelessness and rough sleeping by 2024. The government committed £260 million for local authorities to support people who are homeless or at risk of losing their homes. But the impact of the pandemic and the current cost of living crisis means that in reality the number of people experiencing homelessness could increase by a third by 2024.

The Bank of England has warned household disposable incomes are likely to shrink by 2% this year, the biggest fall since records began in 1990. Property website Zoopla estimates that people renting their homes are paying £62 a month more in the UK than before the pandemic. The Resolution Foundation has warned that the poorest households in the UK could see their cost of living jump by as high as 10% by autumn.

Authors of the 2022 Homelessness monitor, Heriot-Watt University warn we must expect a huge increase in homelessness.

‘We are now facing a cost of living crisis that will see people all over the country paying hundreds of pounds more for their energy and day-to-day essentials. The evidence from both policy specialists and people on the frontline is telling us that if nothing changes, levels of homelessness will increase significantly.

‘Heriot Watt University’s projections in this report show that under the status quo, levels of ‘core’ homelessness will have gone up by one third between 2019 and 2024.’

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

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