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Church steps in to love their neighbours evacuated from Bristol tower block

by Ros Mayfield

Concerns are growing for the welfare of hundreds of Bristol council tenants, forcibly evacuated from a tower block more than two weeks ago.  The Diocese of Bristol says it’s deeply concerned for residents of Barton House in Barton Hill.

Bristol City Council decided to temporarily evacuate residents from the tower block on Tuesday, 14 November, after a building survey found a risk to the structure of the block.

The high-rise flats are very close to St Luke’s Church, Barton Hill. Several members of the congregation have lived in Barton House over the years, and since the evacuation, the church has been supporting people through its weekly food bank. They are also exploring the use of the church crypt for cooking facilities.

The church is working with other community and faith leaders to support those living in temporary accommodation as a result of the evacuation.

The Rt Revd Vivienne Faull, Bishop of Bristol, said: “I am experiencing growing concern over the urgent situation unfolding at Barton House and in the wider Barton Hill community and offer my heartfelt sympathies to all affected by this crisis.

“The evacuation process is undoubtedly a difficult and unsettling experience for those involved, and our prayers are with each and every one of them. It is our duty, as a community bound by faith, that we act generously, offering our support and assistance in any way possible.

“Scripture tells us that every human being deserves a safe place that they can call home. We see it in Isaiah (32:18): ’My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.’ So let us all pray that the people of Barton House may soon regain a sense of home and start healing as a community."

The Revd Nicola Harris, Chaplain for Housing for the Diocese of Bristol, said: “I am extremely concerned about the situation at Barton House and particularly by the short and long-term impact on lives when people, and especially children, are unable to stay in their homes.

“As part of Bristol’s Temporary Accommodation Action Group, I hear so many personal stories of those living in temporary accommodation, and I know others in the Diocese are meeting people in housing need through initiatives such as food banks and Warm Spaces."

The council said a survey of three flats out of the 98 in the block suggested that, in the event of a fire, explosion, or large impact, there would be a risk to the structure of the block.

They decided the evacuation would be a necessary precautionary measure to allow for a fuller analysis.

In a statement, Bristol Council said: “We know that this is a really worrying time for everyone affected, and we're working as quickly as we can to learn more about the issues with the structure and provide as much information as possible, as soon as we can.”

The statement continued: “We thank residents for their patience as we complete this as quickly as possible.”

The council says those who have been displaced are staying with friends or family or at a nearby hotel, and it has "provided for" any residents for whom those options are unsuitable.

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