Ipswich: Addicts stopped from using derelict church as shelter

IPSWICH: Drug addicts can today no longer call a derelict church in Ipswich home after police officers stepped in to ensure the building’s security is toughened.

Around seven homeless people are understood to have been sleeping rough in St Michael’s Church in Upper Orwell Street.

The church, which is owned by the Islamic charitable organisation Jimas, was badly damaged when arsonists torched the Victorian building on March 7.

In the last month drugs paraphernalia, including needles, syringes and tin foil were discovered inside the boarded up church.

Owner and chief executive of Jimas, Manwar Ali said he discovered the break-ins and enlisted the help of Ipswich Borough Council to clear the debris.

“We became aware some homeless people had broken in and we soon found syringes, tin foil and things to suggest they had been using heroin and other drugs,” said Mr Ali. “I have spoken to the people involved.

“It becomes a concern when they are endangering themsleves and potentially others.”

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A spokeswoman for Suffolk police said the Ipswich Central Safer Neighbourhood Team had become aware of problems in the area involving a group of street drinkers.

She said drugs paraphernalia was discovered, prompting officers to approach Mr Ali and discuss the need to do more to secure the building.

Earlier this year Mr Ali was left devastated after it emerged his �300,000 investment in the church was not insured, meaning 30 years of savings went up in smoke.

But Mr Ali says he is determined to see his dreams of a new community centre for Ipswich become a reality.

He is calling for people to offer their ideas of what the church should be used for when it is fully refurbished in about three years. “We want the people of the town to let us know their thoughts, it could even become a shelter for the homeless,” he added.

n What do you think the church should become? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk