A vicar has been branded “un-Christian” for evicting a group of homeless people who slept in tents in a churchyard.
More than a dozen rough sleepers set up a makeshift camp in the grounds of All Saints Church in Northampton three months ago.
Several members of the group were moved on, but now the church has applied for an eviction notice to force them to leave.
But homeless people and residents have accused the church of being “heavy handed”.
Rough sleeper Andy Boddington said: “I have admired the way the church supported those staying in the church.
“This has been an exemplar of how we can help those who are both down and out.
“But All Saints Church now wants to evict those in its encampment. That is
“They say the rough sleepers have refused council help so they must be evicted.
“That shows an utter lack of understanding of why people become rough sleepers.
“Most of the people I have worked with who live outdoors cannot engage with officialdom.
“If they could do that, they wouldn’t be sleeping on a bench or in a tent.
“Most rough sleepers have significant mental health issues. To evict them from a churchyard where they feel at home and secure is cruel.”
The notice was served last Thursday (13/6), with the support of other agencies including Northampton Borough Council, the Hope Centre and police.
Resident Susan Graham, 50, said: “This is profoundly un-Christian.
“How can the church say they support the poorest and most vulnerable in society and then evict them.
“It’s heavy-handed and completely unnecessary. The church should be helping these people, not kicking them out.”
The Rector, Father Oliver Coss, said the eviction was “designed to accelerate a solution for people who have been at the churchyard for a long period of time”.
He said: “We have found some groups would stay for a short time, get help and support and move on after six weeks or so.
“They either ended up somewhere else or accessing help or housing.
“There is a group that has been with us for three months and it was a question of saying, yes, we believe they deserve to be made safe and treated with respect but actually sleeping out is still a risk to life and as an encampment settles down, it needs more intervention.”