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Homeless people camping outside church given notice to vacate

A row has erupted over a group of homeless people who have been ordered to move their camp from land outside a church in Slough’s town centre.

About three months ago two homeless men set up camp outside St Ethelberts Catholic Church in Wellington Street.

Numbers increased over the months to eight homeless people and more tents were set up.

The Diocese of Northampton, which runs the church, issued a notice to vacate with five days’ notice last Friday, but the campers have not moved.

Homeless support group Slough Outreach says two people left at about the time the notice was served.

Slough Outreach volunteer Shin Dhother by the notice to vacate

Nelu Subtirelu, 55, who first moved to the site with friend Philip Harpin, said they have made efforts to keep the place clean.

Mr Harpin, 29, said: “For the first two months it was only me and Nelu here.

“We kept it completely spotless, there wasn’t a single dog end on the floor.”

Mr Harpin, who became homeless in December after a relationship breakdown and the loss of his job, said that he and Nelu were initially allowed to stay when they first set up camp, but that relations between them and the church remained frosty.

He said that churchgoers had been coming up to them asking if they needed food and were ‘all being supportive’ but said the church had argued they were making people ‘feel uncomfortable’.

Mr Harpin says after becoming homeless, he spent about six weeks working 10 hour shifts at a distribution centre while sleeping in an alleyway, but had to stop because it was too tiring.

Philip Harpin, aged 29

Mr Subtirelu, who suffers from depression and a thyroid problem, says he has been homeless for about six months after falling into rent arrears.

The Romanian national, who says he was declared unable to work by the Government in December, says he used to receive Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) as an EU citizen but says he lost that income after ESA was merged into the Universal Credit system, despite having previously worked in the UK, where he has lived for about two years.

Nelu Subtirelu, aged 55

A statement from the Diocese said: “The Diocese of Northampton seek to uphold the dignity of each human being and as such, every effort has been made to reach a suitable agreement with all those involved.

“As a result of this, due process has been followed and a notice has been served.”

A church volunteer, who did not want to be named, said: “They have been asked to leave as the members of the church are complaining about their presence. They are saying that their presence is intimidating.

“The general feeling here is they are not supposed to be here.”

Slough Outreach volunteers have been attending the site every day.

Group founder Shin Dother said he is open to dialogue and is prepared to act as the homeless people’s advocate.

Slough Borough Council has been liaising with the church but has had no involvement in issuing the notice.

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