A vicar has backed calls to forcibly evict a community of homeless people who have set up camp in a graveyard – named after the patron saint of BEGGARS.
Rough sleepers were criticised after they left burnt out tents and needles on the grounds of St Giles Church in Oxford – which is named after the patron saint of beggars.
Rev Canon Dr Andrew Bunch has now doubled down on a previous threat of legal action against rough sleepers.
It would make St Giles the second church in the city to shut off its grounds after another closed its gates to ward off drug dealers.
Dr Bunch said: “One of the problems we had earlier is people having fires and tents being burnt out, people urinating in the churchyard, rubbish strewn around and needles left.
“We have asked them to clean up their act – there is a problem with needles being left in the churchyard.
“Problems arise when you get too many people in the churchyard and they are not respecting the area where they are camped.”
Father Philip Ritchie of the nearby St Mary and St John Church also decided to padlock its gates over problems with drug dealers and antisocial behaviour.
He said the decision was made after ‘long consultation’ with police and the city council.
Dr Bunch has not yet confirmed that eviction notices have been issued.
But in 2015 after rough sleepers refused to leave the churchyard, he handed them letters threatening a court order to evict them and they left shortly afterwards.
Dr Bunch said at the time rough sleepers were moving tombstones around in the churchyard to weigh down their shelters.
Saint Giles was a seventh century abbot and the patron saint of beggars and the church has worked with people who are homeless for many years.