A homeless man who has been living in a tent in a church graveyard for the past six months is now facing eviction.
The man has been served with a legal notice requiring him to leave the grounds of St Mary’s Church in Storrington by December 23.
The notice was served on the man - who has been living in the tent with a pet cat - by solicitors acting on behalf of the rector, the Rev Kathryn Windslow.
It was served on December 9, requiring him to leave the church property within 14 days - two days before Christmas.
The rector said: “He has been there since the beginning of June and I said from the beginning that he could not stay there. He is literally on the top of graves.”
She said that the church and a lot of other people had worked extremely hard to find him accommodation. He had been offered numerous properties and services but had refused them.
“Unfortunately, he can’t stay. He can’t stay in the churchyard on top of graves.” She said there were no public toilets and “it’s just not appropriate.”
She added that he had been warned at the end of September that legal action would be taken if he did not leave. “Here we are, six weeks on and he hasn’t moved.”
She said many people in the village were upset at his being there. She admitted the timing of the eviction was unfortunate and said he would not be moved until after Christmas.
However, she said, many people would want to visit their relatives’ graves in the churchyard over the Christmas period.
The Rev Windslow added in a statement that the man was “trespassing by pitching his tent in the churchyard and continuing to live in the tent.
“He cannot continue to disturb the graves around him. He has upset many people in the community by his actions.
“He has been offered various accommodation options, all of which he has refused.” And she added: “His tent cannot remain on consecrated ground.”