Leaked emails reveal social problems on the street are leaving volunteers at a city centre church to deal with threats of violence.
Last week The Chronicle reported councillor Samantha Dixon’s concerns about a rise in vagrants, street drinkers and beggars following a reduction in day services for the homeless.
Now it has emerged St Peter’s by The Cross is struggling to cope with incidents of theft, threats of violence towards volunteers and the passing of drugs in the church.
In an email, church warden David Rogers wrote: “St Peter’s Church seems to be descending into a state of chaos and could be the subject of damaging publicity in the local press.
“All the time I am receiving reports of trouble in the church. **** is falling out with the homeless on the steps and is told to contact the police, **** is pestering for drugs, some volunteers are threatened by the people we are supposed to be outreaching to.
“I have removed people from the Quiet Room who were doing roll ups; an offertory plate, which has been in the church for 153 years, has disappeared.”
Mr Rogers said concerns had been raised that bad publicity could affect the Duke of Westminster’s financial support for St Peter’s sister church, St John’s.
In another email, administrator Moira Wright spoke of an ‘harassment issue’ at St Peter’s and suggested building up a relationship with Police Community Support Officers to ensure they were a regular presence and ‘a good deterrent’ against other criminal activity.
The Rector David Chesters wrote in response: “I am in favour of going to the police at an early stage, even if only for advice. I say this to protect the people (users as well as volunteers) and future of St Peter’s. It seems we may be in serious danger of becoming seen and known as a haunt for the passing of drugs.”
Rev Chesters told The Chronicle he would not wish an exaggerated picture to be painted about the problems but accepted there was a growing number of homeless people in the city centre, which was testing the church’s resources.
He said: “Within the last six to 12 months we have had an increase in homeless people at The Cross who come into St Peter’s. As a Christian church we do our best, but we don’t have unlimited resources.”
Shop keepers and cafe owners also report customers feeling intimidated by groups of people gathering on The Rows and begging for money.