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A GROUP that had occupied land earmarked for luxury housing and turned it into a sanctuary for homeless people in Bournemouth was forcibly evicted today.
Police and bailiffs arrived at the Occupy Sanctuary opposite the Bournemouth International Centre early in the morning and started dismantling tents to cries of “shame on you.”
“This is a sanctuary for the homeless,” one of the occupiers said, as he demanded to see the court papers that allowed for the eviction to take place lawfully.
Bailiffs produced a photocopy of a court order, but the protesters disputed its validity and asked to see the original papers. However, the bailiffs moved in and started clearing the site, telling the occupiers that they had to “leave now.”
The action upset children who were present, with one of the bailiffs appearing to laugh as he escorted them and their mother from the site.
Activists from Occupy Bournemouth moved onto the land, formerly the site of a Methodist church, on December 13 and turned it into a sanctuary for the homeless. They said that their action was timed in a way that would give homeless people a safe place, food, warmth and shelter over Christmas.
It is understood that about 30 homeless people were on the site, which had received widespread support from the public with donations of food, clothing and other essentials.
The land has been bought by a property developer to build luxury housing and holiday homes.
A spokesman from St Mungo’s homelessness charity warned that the site was doing more harm than good for homeless people.
“Our priority is always trying to help people away from the streets as soon as we can as sleeping rough is harmful and dangerous, especially as the temperatures drop.
“If people are concerned about someone sleeping rough, we ask them to contact the StreetLink service at streetlink.org.uk and make a referral, which we will follow up.
“We’re aware of the camp and have offered support to people sleeping rough to move away from the streets and start to recover and rebuild their lives,” he said.
Bournemouth Tory councillor Robert Chapman said he welcomed the enforcement and said he was “quite sure the majority are not genuinely homeless.”
But the occupiers responded angrily to the claims and said that staff from St Mungo’s had spent limited time on the site and had not engaged with many of the rough sleepers.
One branded their attendance at the site yesterday morning as “a publicity stunt.”
After a peaceful stand-off the occupiers cleared their belongings and moved off the site.
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