SQUATTERS have targeted a charity building and could force the charity to fork out thousands of pounds to take back their own premises.

Havens Hospices, a charity that supports terminally ill adults and children, has confirmed the building which houses their community hospice service in Alexandra Street, Southend, is now occupied by squatters.

The group has taken over the ground floor which was formerly the charity’s shop but is no longer operating and have been there for more than a week.

Havens are concerned because the building is still in use by their staff as they run hospice operations from the first floor and the squatters have ignored a notice to quit from the charity’s solicitors.

Andy Smith, chief executive of Havens Hospices, said: “We appreciate that this group does not intend to cause the charity problems.

“Our dilemma is that this is not an unused building. Although the former shop downstairs has closed, upstairs are offices for our counselling service, and our Community Hospice Care team including a service supporting patients at night.”

The charity has also had reports from local residents and businesses suggesting the squatters are hosting loud parties into the early hours.

One resident who lives in Alexandra Street but asked not to be named, said: “I have lived here a long time so I notice when unfamiliar people are around. I have noticed a lot of unusual traffic of what looks like homeless people coming in and out of Havens at all hours.”

Mr Smith added: “The squatters’ activities late at night have already caused some distress to staff, and if this situation continues we will need to find emergency accommodation for our team to enable them to continue to support patients.”

The squatters have been served with notice to quit from the charity’s solicitors.

If they do not leave, the charity faces the cost of legal action likely to total thousands of pounds, along with additional costs for clean-up and repair of the damaged building.

In the wake of a takeover of Clarence Yard, in Clarence Street, Southend’s councillor for housing Mark Flewitt has condemned the practise as “inconvenient and costly” for those involved.

He said: “We do not advocate squatting in any form. It is a huge inconvenience and cost to those who own the property and there is no excuse for it. If they are homeless they should present themselves to the council and go through the proper channels.”