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Monday, February 23, 1998 Published at 22:25 GMT


'Cardboard City' meets its Waterloo

The original 'Cardboard City' in London is to be closed down after the High Court granted an eviction order against its homeless residents.

The order will bring to an end a shanty-town community which has existed in the shadow of Waterloo railway station for the last 15 years.

In the mid-1980s the site, beneath the pedestrian underpasses of the Bullring roundabout, was home to up to 200 people sleeping rough in cardboard boxes. It became a symbol of society's failure to eradicate homelessness.

Now, fewer than 30 remain at the Bullring and they have been given 28 days to leave.

The area is being redeveloped for the British Film Institute's £20m giant screen cinema.

Soon the whole site will be boarded up and an army of construction workers will move in to complete the 500-seat Imax cinema.

Lambeth Council, which won the eviction notice, is offering a home to all of Cardboard City's residents.

But Shaun Tomlinson, 30, who has lived at Waterloo for 10 years since he quit the Army, says many people have tried to leave before but always return.

He said: "It just doesn't work. You offer someone who has been living rough the chance of a permanent home and then give them upwards of £500 to get straight.

"They have no concept of a normal life and just spend the money on drink or drugs. It might work if the people you are trying to rehabilitate are given some counselling because most of them have no idea what it is like to settle down and live in a flat."

Some of the rough-sleepers say they do not want to leave under any circumstances.

However, Tony Truman, a spokesman for the charity for the homeless, St Mungo's, said: "We are not sad to see the Bullring close - it has become infamous as a symbol of homelessness in Britain in the past decades and we do not believe anyone should be sleeping rough.

"The best thing we can do is to give the right kind of housing and support to those living there so that they can get back into the community."

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