Kettering church parish hall to be used as homeless shelter
St Peter and St Paul Church in Kettering town centre has offered local group Safe Until Daylight their parish hall to use as a shelter for the homeless.
The Rev David Walsh said there have been concerns expressed by the council and the police as well as the wider community about those currently living in the council-controlled churchyard in tents.
In a letter to residents in the area, Mr Walsh said: "We have decided once again to offer Safe Until Daylight overnight use of the Parish Hall until the charity finds more permanent accommodation."
Safe Until Daylight are a community interest company and ran a shelter in the parish hall in Market Place last year and will be starting up again on Monday, November 11.
Kettering Council control the churchyard and said: "We can confirm that, once accommodation becomes available for the people camping in the churchyard, then we will expect them to vacate the churchyard and we will prevent their return thereafter, in their own interests as well as those of all other visitors and residents of the town centre."
St Peter and St Paul's decision to allow Safe Until Daylight use of the parish hall follows concern about the growing number of tents in the churchyard as winter approaches.
Mr Walsh said: "They have come and gone for quite a long time. There was often one tent there and it was quite discreet but that has changed in recent months.
"As a church, it's really important for us to be trying to look out for those who are homeless. We try to follow Jesus and he had quite a lot to say about this.
"We have had people in our team engaging with the tent dwellers and put a lot of energy and time liaising with the council."
Mr Walsh said the Safe Until Daylight only used the hall for a few weeks last year but it proved successful even in just a short time.
He added: "As a result, people who came to the shelter are now permanently off the streets."
Paul Millen, the director of Safe Until Daylight said those who are referred to them from the council will be able to spend the night in the parish hall shelter.
Paul said: "The council are the gate keepers, whoever they send with a valid referral [can use the shelter].
"The council offers a small amount of safety by regulating who is coming through the doors."
Those who use Safe Until Daylight's shelter are not able to leave during the night and then return to the shelter, so Mr Walsh thinks the solution is best for everyone involves as it gives homeless people a roof over their heads and should mean minimum disruption to residents in the surrounding area.
He also said the disruption caused by giving use of the parish hall to Safe Until Daylight is not an issue.
Mr Walsh said: "It's a bit of a disruption but I am saying to people in our church it's a bit of an inconvenience but let's get this into perspective, it's small compared to no roofs over their heads.
"Jesus makes it clear what is important."
Paul said the church have been great to work with and Safe Until Daylight will be using the parish hall until they can sort somewhere more permanent.
Paul said: "The building we are talking about is the perfect place."
Kettering Council said it had been working closely with both the church and Safe Until Daylight.
Kettering Council also said it is currently negotiating with the housing association Home Group about using Wellington House, which was used as a shelter last year.
A spokesman for the council said negotiations are ongoing but they are hopeful and there is a lot of goodwill on both sides.
The spokesman added that the council would be working with Accommodation Concern to liaise with those sleeping rough to encourage them to sleep in shelters