I have responded directly to the writers of the open letter printed in your last issue, but wanted to share my thoughts with your readers too, while respecting the ongoing legal proceedings.
The legal action was brought against the council by the Christian Kitchen (with two of its service users) and as a result we agreed to delay implementation of the move from Mission Grove.
The council took the difficult decision to withdraw permission to use the public car park at Mission Grove because of the negative impact of anti-social behaviour on residents in the High Street area.
We in no way blame the Christian Kitchen for this activity, but evidence from the police and residents living nearby shows that the soup kitchen is a contributory cause of anti-social behaviour. The council and the police have a responsibility to local residents who are concerned about ASB and crime and we are aware that incidents have continued since our decision – many reported in the Guardian.
It remains open to concerned churches and community groups to offer an alternative site.
The council’s decision does not mean that the Christian Kitchen cannot operate elsewhere and we have made it clear that we would provide support with any transition.
The council works hard to support a range of services that address the complex needs of homeless people. From the advice of our Housing Solutions Service, to our close working relationship with London Street Rescue, and our participation in the East London Single Homelessness Project.
It is the council’s role to balance the interests and views of different groups in our community and I am satisfied that we have made a fair and reasonable decision. I hope that all of the member organisations can reconsider their position on this given their belief in the value of the service.
Chris Robbins, Leader of Waltham Forest Council