The rector of a Northampton town centre church says he has 'no problem' with an encampment of tents that have pitched up in the graveyard.
At least eight tents belonging to rough sleepers have been spotted inside the walled yard behind All Saints Church in Mercers Row.
The encampment began in the days before Christmas and has grown in the last week of December.
Now, the Rector of All Saints Church - Father Oliver Coss - has made clear that the rough sleepers are not unwelcome during the cold weather.
He said: "We choose not to generally refuse rough sleepers in the same way some businesses in Abington Street might have to for their own perfectly acceptable reasons.
"I hope we can work together with the town's agencies and the borough council's outreach team to get them inside.
"We take the view that unless there's a specific allegation or problem we have no issue or problem with them being there. It's a central location if they find other places are unavailable.
"The volume of tents is unusual though."
Cllr Stephen Hibbert, Northampton Borough Council cabinet member for housing and wellbeing, said: “Our Street Outreach Workers have been in regular dialogue with the rough sleepers currently camping in All Saints churchyard but, unfortunately, they have repeatedly declined all of our offers of assistance.
“Whenever we speak to All Saints Church, we always say that the best thing that they can do to improve the health and wellbeing of people who are sleeping rough is to actively encourage them to engage with the Street Outreach Workers and the local services that can help them come off the streets.
“Access to the Nightshelter and other accommodation is available to people who are sleeping rough or at risk of sleeping rough. We all have a role to play in tackling and preventing rough sleeping. Sometimes, it takes just a few words of encouragement from the right person to inspire a rough sleeper to take that leap of faith.”