Council invited to help the homeless

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REGARDING homeless in Eastbourne, the opinion column and article on February 4, as the Church concerned, may I respond to your comments?

I met the lady at 7pm on December 3 as I was shutting the building (we are open every day).

She said, “This is the house of God – you cannot put me out”.

I sympathised with that view, and did what I have done several times this last year: I found bedding for her to sleep in an annex room of the church.

I made it clear this could only be a temporary answer, until her next appointment with Social Security, when I urged her to claim help from the statutory authority in her homeless situation.

Throughout the intervening days we brought her food and drink each day.

But we simply do not have a place to house people beyond a few days. There are no washing or toilet facilities in this annex so it becomes very difficult to keep it clean and safe.

Having attended to homeless people as a priest for 25 years in different churches in Sussex, I fully understand why the cold weather would make anyone do this.

But it is not a permanent solution: that part of the church where they stayed was so bad by the morning that a commercial cleansing firm had to be called in.

It was the mayor’s admirable initiative the following weekend, which broke the logjam and brought the help this lady needed.

After a few days, and before your article, I telephoned the same department of Social Services that we had first contacted on January 21, to find out how the lady was.

Other callers are not asking for rooms but a hot drink and sandwiches; we offer this, morning to night, 365 days of the year. And both priests and church members are involved with the excellent homeless charity Oasis, based at Christ Church in Seaside.

We really appreciate the mayor’s concern for this issue.

If the council would like to join us on that rota – maybe catering for Sunday night – we would welcome them.

Father Raglan Hay-Will

Parish Priest

Grange Road