Temporary barriers have been installed to part of Lincoln Cathedral to stop rough sleepers using it at night.
Officials said they had reluctantly taken the decision to close off the Galilee Porch after a number of serious incidents, including a fire, reports the BBC. Human faeces were also found around the site, which staff at the cathedral said posed a serious health risk.
A public notice had been put on the fence, along with a quote from Psalm 4:8 – ‘In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, O Lord, will keep me safe’ – and a poster that reads “go and do thou likewise”, but these have since been removed. The call to fence off the area has come under criticism, with some accusing Lincoln Cathedral of not living up to their Christian values.
Charities have praised the work the cathedral does to help homeless people. Will Harrison, Chapter Clerk, said: “We have done our utmost to support homeless people practically, and we have always welcomed the majority whom we have come to know, and who have respected the shelter provided by the cathedral.”
“However, following a series of serious incidents, we had to reassess the situation. Our staff were daily removing human waste found on and around the cathedral building. We also found significant damage as a result of a fire in the Galilee Porch,” he added. Cathedral staff are urging anyone in difficulty to seek help.
Caroline Killeavy, chief executive of YMCA Lincolnshire, said the incidents were a result of “anti-social behaviour”. She said there had been a “shoulder-to-shoulder” effort this year in tackling homelessness in the city, and also praised the cathedral for its fundraising efforts and support.
It comes after charities warned that homeless people’s lives could be lost unless action was taken to find them socially-distanced accommodation during the second wave of the pandemic. The Crisis charity said it was unable to open its centres this Christmas, but was instead providing hotel rooms and delivering meals.
The government said it had taken “unprecedented action” this year, with more than £700m being provided to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping.