Homeless people and drugs problem outside St John's church, Waterloo

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Monday 22 January 2007 8.55pm
For as long as I can remember since i've lived in the area (about 3 years), homeless people, drunks and drug users have been hanging around at this church. They are drunk at all hours of the day, and shout at passers by, especially women. I for one am quite fed up of having inappropriate comments yelled at me as I walk to and from Sainsburys. The church gardens are somewhere it is not safe to go at night or even really during the day, even though they are now beautifully kept.

Is this problem being addressed, and if so how? I know that these situations are always very complex but surely something can be done to clean up the area and help these poor people.

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Monday 22 January 2007 10.34pm
I think the local community safety officers at the Police station will be able to tell you what they are doing - it is a problem around the whole area which I know they are trying to get sorted, but if they move them on, they go somewhere else until the police go, then come back again.
Monday 22 January 2007 10.39pm
There have been homeless people in the Waterloo area since forever. In regards to the homeless by the church, they used to occupy the roundabout which is now home to the Imax.
Of course nothing is being done to help these people by the authorities. Out of sight, out of mind. Were you concerned about their predicament before you moved here?
The church does it's best to help these people, a number of which have told me they are former servicemen.
I've always found them to be ok, although I accept they can look a bit intimidating.
As for the safety issue, I think I should also add that there are children's groups (Cubs etc) that meet here without any problem.
In fact, the more I think about it, there are far more dangerous places around SE1 then St Johns.
Monday 22 January 2007 11.10pm
Well, the facts that (a) it has been there for a long time and (b) it could be worse, don't seem to be reasons not to solve a problem. You're right, I didn't care about SE1 before it was my community, I cared about my previous community. But now I do care! I am not suggesting that people from other boroughs or areas sort this out, but as yennig says, there are people in the area who have responsibilities for these kinds of things.

There is a homeless hostel on Stamford Street, why don't they go there I wonder. It is so sad, and an attitude of 'they're not doing much harm' is not right, I don't think. I'm sure they don't want to be homeless and if they are former servicemen, who knows what kind of psychological issues may be involved. I hope someone can help them.
Monday 22 January 2007 11.19pm
It is all relative, I fear.

There used to be some 200 plus homeless people sleeping rough in the "bullring" before the IMAX was constructed. My perception was that almost all of them had alcohol and/or other drug dependency problems.

It would be a real shame if people don't feel able to go into St John's churchyard, given the work done by St Mungo's "Putting Down Roots" scheme, by which local homeless people helped repair the gardens.
Monday 22 January 2007 11.38pm
'Waterloo' I don't think they are that much of a problem. Why don't you spend a day or two with St Mungo's or Shelter and see how they do their best to cope.
As for the psychological issues, that's care in the community.
I don't think they are allowed to drink in the shelter. So, if you are an alcoholic sleeping in churchyard seems ok.
Tuesday 23 January 2007 12.09am
Actually the Stamford Street hostel does allow alcohol, but I think people need a referral to go there. Perhaps they are very oversubscribed.

I am not intending to criticise the work done by the charities you mention, but there is clearly more to be done. These people are not just a nuisance (although I'm not denying that their behaviour can sometimes be upsetting), they are real people with huge problems. If it were a member of your family you wouldn't think it was 'not that much of a problem'.

I know it's a virtually unsolvable problem, but let's not deny that it is a problem. The charities you mention are doing a wonderful job, if only they had more funding, or the police and government and council etc would play more of a role.
Tuesday 23 January 2007 8.03am
Waterloo,

I understand your concerns, though as someone who has worked in the homelessness sector and continues to work in a similar sector, I believe it will take an extreme shift in mindset (and the legal framework) by the government and local authorities, and particularly the general public to create any kind of longer term solution for homeless people. Charities and other agencies do what they can with limited resources, but the issue is systemic: insufficient long term accommodation to help homeless people out of their situations (not to mention communities who would rather that such help wasn't in their area thank you very much), over-subscribed and often shabby short-term accommodation includign hostels and bedsits, insufficient psychiatric and other forms of care programmes, lack of programmes to develop life skills...you name it, it's lacking.

Of course, all of this requires money and most people in this day and age would resent paying more tax for such provision, or to help correct an imbalance in the housing system, preferring to leave things to the "free market". There is also a limit to how much charities dealing with homelessness can raise. In fact the charity I worked for once joked about setting up a donkey sanctuary as a more attractive way of raising funds for it's core work. The basic fact is people would rather forget about people who are homeless believing that they are all drug riddled and have brought it all upon themselves.

All of that doesn't help your concerns for the area you live in, but perhaps gives a little context as to why the problem isn't going away - despite the fact that street homelessness has actually declined to some degree.

There are, however, more people living in sub-standard temporary or over-crowded accommodation now than there were in the days when homelessness was a much higher profile issue. Of course tis aspect of the problem is easier on people's consciences as it's "out of sight, out of mind".

Rant over!
Tuesday 23 January 2007 9.20am
I pass the homeless people everyday and I must say I've never had any problem with them at all. On a Saturday once when I walked past one of the men had a birthday and offered my partner and I some of his cake. At the end of the day they are just all making the most of what they've got.
Tuesday 23 January 2007 11.03am
I agree, I don't a problem with them personally. In fact, I often get them a bag of chips from the Fishcotheque.
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