St Leonard’s Church in Shoreditch is an iconic part of Shoreditch heritage and known worldwide. The church has also become a well-known film set used for BBC comedy ‘Rev’ starring Tom Hollander. The church has recently hit the news for taking an entirely different approach to that portrayed in the hit comedy series. In the show Reverend Adam Smallbone, played by Hollander ensures that the church’s doors are open to everyone. However it has emerged that his real life counterpart Reverend Paul Turp has been forced to erect a sign outside the church warning loiterers they are banned from the near by vicinity of the church and that the police will move them on if they fail to comply.
This is a move that has been criticised by homeless charities who have urged the church to work with the local community rather than simply banning them. Reverend Paul Turp is quoted as stating that he ‘lost control’ of the church to drug dealers and street drinkers. The Reverend suggests that the problem has become so acute that if has had an affect on congregation attendances as some simply stay away with the view that the church is too dangerous.
Whether you agree with the move by Reverend Paul Turp or not, what this story does highlight is one of the forgotten aspects of Shoreditch life and the Shoreditch community. Take a 5 minute walk from the church on Shoreditch High Street towards Old Street station and simply count the number of rough sleepers you will encounter on this journey which can be sometimes be quite staggering. For such a fun, vibrant and affluent area there is a noticeable issue regarding rough sleepers. Hackney council states that they are working in partnership with the voluntary sector in the local area to deal with the problem. The church does have it’s own alcoholic recovery unit which houses 17 people.