A CHURCH wants to put up gates to stop the homeless congregating in its grounds.

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.

The church claims the numbers of people using the grounds to sleep rough has risen recently, which is why it is having to take action.

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.”

Ms Owen says church staff have to clean up the area and gave approached the council about installing CCTV.

The church is appealing for the local community to help fund the cost of the wrought iron gates.

Ms Owen added: “It’s very sad, and maybe the increase is to do with Government cuts. We don’t want to upset people, but we need to think of the welfare of our neighbours.”

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.

A 26-year-old living in nearby Burdett Avenue, who asked not to be named, said: “It is quite intimidating to walk there at night, so it would be good if they could do something."


THREE homeless people who use the church for shelter have spoken of their disgust at the plan.

David Carr, who has been on the streets for ten years, said: “It’s ridiculous, where are we supposed to go? Just lie on the pavement?

“And winter is on its way too.

Last year I got pneumonia. I was in hospital and nearly died.

“Last Friday I was in town and I asked someone for 20p and he tried to hit me.”

He added: “Putting gates up is just wrong. This is a church, I thought they helped people?”

David Binks added: “None of us do drugs, we clean up after ourselves, we’re not rude, we do like a drink, but we don’t cause a problem for anyone. I think it’s wrong. It’s so hard being on the street.”

Friend Antoinette Cox, added: “It’s getting like cardboard city in Southend – there are so many people who are homeless, but it costs money to get a bed at a shelter.

“People treat you like scum, like you’re a real problem for them, when you are not.”


A reader who lives near the church has sent us these pictures to show what residents face.


Steve Lee told echo-news.co.uk "I enclose a photo I just this second took from my bedroom window. I live next to the church in question and this is a typical sight on any day of the week. They are noisy, always have alcohol, and constantly swear and shout at each other and passers by."