London council profiteering from homelessness

RINF EDITOR’S NOTE: As an organisation that regularly uses our profits to feed the homeless and vulnerable in our city I find it abhorrent that any council would take it upon themselves to further stamp on the faces of those in desperate need of help, and to actually profiteer from such repugnant behaviour is beyond belief. Just where is the humanity?

(RT) – London’s Hackney Council has been accused of “criminalizing homelessness” after announcing a system of fines intended to tackle anti-social behavior, including rough sleeping and begging.

Government figures show 6,508 people slept rough in London last year.

Homeless people found begging in the streets of Hackney could be issued a £100
on-the-spot fine with a potential court charge of £1,000 under
the new Public Space Protection Order (PSPO).

The council says the Protection Order is being put in place to
tackle persistent “anti-social behavior” such as
begging, rough sleeping in “hot spots” and street
drinking.

However it is still unclear how the council will collect the
money from rough sleepers.

Several organizations have spoken out and launched a petition
against the council’s order.

Commenting on the order, Heather Kennedy from campaign group Digs
said the council’s “criminalization” of homeless people
has angered Hackney residents.

[A] large number of people” are planning to protest
against the PSPO, she told the Hackney Times.

The council “failed to support residents in housing need … in
the middle of a housing crisis
,” she said.

We will not rest until the criminalization of homelessness
in our borough is overturned
,” she added.

Hackney Community Law Centre also released a statement pleading
with the council to consider amending the order.

Its chairman, Ian Rathbone, said the order would not stop the
homeless from sleeping rough, merely “force them to sleep
rough elsewhere.”

Hackney Deputy Mayor Sophie Linden insists the order was put
forward so the borough could see a reduction in anti-social
behavior that affects the safety and wellbeing of residents.

Enforcement will always be a last resort and only used for
those who continue to sleep rough
,” she told the Hackney
Times.

Commenting on the nature of the order, Homeless Link Director of
Policy and Communications Jacqui McCluskey told RT she
doesn’t think it’s right” to criminalize homelessness.

The measures brought forward by the Hackney Council “do
nothing to tackle the causes of homelessness and rough
sleeping,
” she added.

The main focus should be on “preventing people from becoming
homeless
” and ensuring those who are receive the
appropriate support and accommodation in place to help them
move on from homelessness for good
.”

Condemning the order, Jon Sparkes, chief executive of
homelessness charity Crisis, said plans to ban and criminalize
rough sleeping will be “counter-productive” and only
make it harder to access the support people need to get off the
streets for good.

However, Thames Reach Communications Manager Mike Nicholas argues
the PSPO in Hackney is being used to specifically tackle begging,
which he linked to heroin, street drinking and crack cocaine use
rather than homelessness.

Nicholas told the Hackney Times that the aim of the order was to
help those on the streets who previously had refused to engage
with support services to “break the cycle.”

This piece was reprinted by RINF Alternative News with permission or license.