In what seems to be a desperate act to combat homelessness within Falmouth, individuals have taken residence inside an empty store premises in the town centre.
Sticky O’Rourke and his partner Moy are believed to have entered the vacant lot in which the Edinburgh Woolen Mill was present until 2016.
Locals were first alerted to the situation on Sunday night (April 22) when witnesses first saw the two occupants inside the premises. In a statement issued Monday, town centre manager said: “We’re well aware of it. We have to go through the due process involving the property agent Scott Burridge Commercial and the police”.
The front of the store has been inscribed with the words “Alfie go whistle round the back I’ll let you in thru the back gate S+M”. As of reporting this hasn’t been removed and is still up, the occupants inside as well.
However a day later it appears the local authorities and property owners have taken action. A notice up reads the following:
“This is NOT a “residential building” within the meaning on section 111, Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012…”
It follows up by stating that: “any entry or attempt to enter into these premises without our permission is therefore a criminal offence.” and that any violence or violent threats “may receive a sentence of up to six months’ imprisonment and/or a fine of up to £5,000.”
Whilst O’Rourke is technically breaking the law, this has furthered the question into homelessness on Cornish streets, and whether or not enough is being done to tackle the issue by local council and parliamentary authorities.
A report by the National Audit Office last year showed there was a 52% increase in homelessness between 2009 and 2016.
However according to Falmouth and Truro MP Sarah Newton “Cornwall showed the biggest reduction in rough sleepers. In November 2016 there were reported to be 99 people sleeping on the streets and by November 2017 that figure had been cut to 68.”
The issue with O’Rourke brings up a much needed ethical debate, but what is the right way of tackling this, especially from both a legal and moral standpoint?