'Hate campaign' against Mansfield's Bridge Street soup kitchen

The Bridge Street Methodist Church
The Bridge Street Methodist Church

Volunteers running a soup kitchen in Mansfield town centre have told the BBC they are being targeted as part of a "hate campaign".

Graffiti has been written on signs outside Bridge Street Methodist Church, that says 'don't feed the scum'.

Notice outside the church

Notice outside the church

A notice has also been put up in a neighbouring window claiming the homeless people using the service are to blame for a number of incidents on the street including drug dealing, and alleges that the homeless population are given sleeping bags paid for by the council, which they have denied.

A shopkeeper nearby, who did not wish to be named, told the BBC that the incidents were frightening customers away and said the services that assisted them were creating a "zombie triangle".

The minister of Bridge Street Methodist Church, the Reverend John Yarrien, told the BBC he had been left upset by the abuse, but recognised why people are worried.

He called on the community to help support the homeless.

He said: "If we shut down the soup kitchen, it's not going to get rid of homelessness or drug taking and associated crimes, it's just going to move those issues somewhere else."

Councillor Barry Answer, portfolio holder for housing at Mansfield District Council, said: “The council continues to work with members of the Mansfield Homeless Network to ensure the most appropriate services and support are provided to rough sleepers at the point of need.

“A relatively small but very visible group of vulnerable people with complex needs has been identified as causing the most issues to the local community. The council is working with partners including the police and Framework to repeatedly offer mental health, homelessness and substance misuse outreach support to tackle the root causes, alongside enforcement as necessary.

“The council and police do not condone any organisation or member of the public trying to restrict entry to any support service or spreading false information.

“There is no record of either of the alleged violent incidents mentioned having taken place and the council does not fund or supply sleeping bags or tents to the homeless.

“Local councils are working together to try to tackle the issues caused by Mamba, which is a nationwide problem and one that will not be fixed overnight. Individuals have the right to travel to any town they wish and local authorities don’t have a right to send anybody anywhere and Mansfield District Council does not move people to other areas.

“The figure of 150 people using a soup kitchen is not accurate and is well exaggerated.

“Following a recent meeting with representatives of soup kitchens, regular police attendance at soup kitchens has been agreed.

“We are taking this issue very seriously and understand the impact it is having on town centre businesses, residents and visitors. We will continue to work with our partners and look at what other areas are doing across the country to ensure we are doing all we can to tackle it and encourage users to make permanent lifestyle changes. The council also recently agreed to write to the Government calling for more action and investment to stem the supply and address the harm caused by Mamba.

“If you would like to volunteer at our winter night shelter please contact homelessenquiries@mansfield.gov.uk. You can help transform lives by donating to a recognised charity such as Framework, or giving gifts such as food, clothing or money to The Beacon Project. Please contact StreetLink.org.uk or Framework on 0800 066 5356 to help someone rough sleeping.”