St Albans neighbours help homeless man living in Abbey Orchard
PUBLISHED: 18:33 09 January 2014
A rough sleeper who has taken refuge in the St Albans Abbey Orchard is being looked after by kind-hearted residents while a charity finds him a permanent home.
Tucked, relatively hidden, against a hedge in a secluded part of the Abbey grounds is his small tent, zipped up tight to keep out the winter wind and driving rain.
This site, named after Britain’s first Christian martyr St Alban and which has drawn scores of pilgrims through the ages, has been sought as a place of refuge by the homeless man whose first name is understood to be Isaac.
His small tent is half-way down the orchard sheltered by bare trees, and has a chair next to it, two small dirty mats by the front flap, and neatly piled plastic bags.
A tree opposite has had several chairs placed around its trunk, believed to have been taken from a local skip.
The man, possibly in his 30s, has been living rough in the orchard for about a month.
One man who contacted the Herts Advertiser about the tent said he had assumed it was a “gypsy camp”.
He added: “I thought that this place was quite sacred, so to just pitch up and camp there is outrageous.”
But a neighbour who did not want to be named said locals have been helping Isaac by offering hot drinks and food during the cold weather.
He added: “We are worried and anxious about him. Isaac is inoffensive, and we haven’t had any problems with him. People are acting charitably towards him. The police are aware of him, and have visited him.”
An Abbey spokesman said there was “concern” about his safety.
However a spokeswoman for homelessness charity Open Door St Albans has confirmed it has been trying to help Isaac.
The charity has been running a project, based at its homelessness service centre in Bricket Road in partnership with St Albans district council and Hightown Praetorian and Churches Housing Association, to help rough sleepers like Isaac.
The charity has recently helped another rough sleeper, Peter Hardy, who returned to the UK after living abroad with very little money and unable to find somewhere to stay.
Peter was sleeping on the changing room floor of a local football club.
Open Door helped him successfully obtain the benefits he was due and Peter is now in a sheltered house for older people.
Karen Dragovic, the council’s head of housing, said residents concerned about someone sleeping rough could make a referral to the outreach service on 01727 859113.