A SALVATION Army meal run service for Bournemouth’s homeless has been asked to leave a town-centre churchyard and move almost a mile away.

St Peter’s Church in Hinton Road has provided a base for the charity to help the homeless for 20 years.

One volunteer, Mary Randall, earned the MBE for her work giving hot food and clean clothes to rough sleepers.

But the church council has asked the volunteers to move their service to Cotlands Road car park for a six-month trial.

The church says it is trying to balance its duty to the needy with its responsibility to keep an attractive churchyard.

It comes as a second blow to the town’s homeless after the Roman Catholic Church of the Sacred Heart, in Richmond Hill, asked its soup kitchen to leave earlier this year.

Nurse Rosemarie Veale, who volunteers with the soup kitchen on Mondays, said: “What is happening to caring Bournemouth?”

She added: “Being a trained nurse I am able to help with their medical problems, dressing sore, bleeding feet and leg ulcers and also giving advice on how to obtain any necessary medical help.

“We clear up all our rubbish and even wash down the monument in the churchyard in case any soup has been spilt. When we leave, you would not believe 30 people had been there.”

The Rev Ian Terry, team rector for the town centre, said the church sought to provide both an attractive churchyard and practical care to the needy.

He said: “In trying to balance those two roles we are experimenting, for a six-month period, with seeing if the homeless could have their needs for food met equally well at soup kitchens located not far away at Cotlands Road, while we focus on working in close collaboration with the borough council to increase the attractiveness of our churchyard.”

The council has put thousands of pounds from its Safer Communities fund into improving the attractiveness of the churchyard. Mr Terry said the church recognised its responsibility “to maintain the high level of orderliness and cleanliness that has been achieved”.

“Equally, we recognise our responsibility for caring for the needy, so a critical condition of the church council’s decision was that there had to be equally good capacity for the soup kitchen to serve the homeless and needy in Cotlands Road,” he said.

“We specifically sought assurances on that very important point from both the council representative and from the Salvation Army’s representative.

“Neither has been back in touch with us saying that there is a problem.

“Of course, if I am approached, directly, by someone demonstrating clear difficulties caused by this experimental period then I shall take those views to my council standing committee.”