With the number of rough sleepers in the UK skyrocketing, how will the government solve the homelessness crisis? The answer is simple: host a royal wedding and fine them all. Oh wait, that only works in Windsor.
According to charity Homeless Link, the number of rough sleepers in the UK has increased 169 percent since 2010, prompting other constituencies to write to the Tories in power to beg for further assistance. And while regions like Oxford call on the government for help, Windsor and Maidenhead Council are getting the royal treatment.
Oxford City Council Leader Susan Brown & I have written to the Housing Minister to call on the gov’t to take the urgent and bold action needed to solve the housing crisis.
We need more council houses, stronger rights for renters, & more funding for homelessness services. pic.twitter.com/kx0IyPeIYw
— Anneliese Dodds (@AnnelieseDodds) February 12, 2018
The council is currently at the center of a row over a controversial public space protection order (PSPO) in the lead-up to the royal wedding. The plan is to jack up fines for anti-social behavior to £100 (US$140) and bring in a ban preventing people from leaving bedding and belongings “unattended” on its streets. Luckily for the homeless, that can be slashed to a mere £50 for early payment. Offenders who can’t pay could face be slapped with a summary conviction and a £1,000 fine.
The tough new rules will also ban begging – or as Windsor and Maidenhead Council puts it, banning people from making “any verbal, non-verbal or written requests for money, including the placing of hats and containers.”
The new rules will be enforced by community wardens, adorned with body cameras and stab-proof vests.
The council’s new strategy will also require itinerants to sign up to a 56-day plan, in which they are offered housing, medical, and addiction services. If they don’t comply, they may be prosecuted.
Windsor Council hopes the “robust strategy” will reduce rough sleepers by 50 percent by the end of March. Meghan Markle and Prince Harry will wed on May 19.
Murphy James, from the Windsor Homeless Project, queried how “fining somebody who quite evidently, has no money” would bring about a solution.
“Criminalize real criminals, not those that are forced into a situation by circumstance and left to survive,” he said. “That is quite simply inhumane.”
The deputy director of communications, policy and campaigns at homelessness charity Shelter, Anne Baxendale, pointed out that those sleeping on the street aren’t doing so by choice.
“They are often at their lowest point, struggling with a range of complex problems and needs and they are extremely vulnerable, at risk from cold weather, illness and even violence,” she said.
“They desperately need our help, support and advice to move off the streets into safety and, eventually, into a home. Stigmatizing or punishing them is totally counter-productive.”
Windsor and Maidenhead councilor Jesse Grey, who is the Conservative cabinet member for environmental services, told the Guardian that the Berkshire council was justified in introducing the proposals, which are part of a strategy to deal with the homeless population.
“We have accommodation for everyone who is sleeping rough. It’s the ones who don’t want our help that we have to do something about,” he said.
“The genuine ones who sign up to the program, we want to help, but we need some sort of action to serve our residents and our businesses.”
Last month, the leader of Windsor and Maidenhead Council, Simon Dudley, withstood a vote of no confidence over the homelessness row.
The Conservative council leader has previously claimed that his comments have been misconstrued.
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