The Independent London Newspaper
25th April 2014

Letters

Homeless charities call for caution over police crackdown on London's rough sleepers

Published: 6 February, 2014
By PAVAN AMARA

HOMELESS charities have called for caution over a new police crackdown on rough sleepers in Camden.

Operation Encompass targeted homeless people and beggars last week with officers sent out on patrol with Camden Council and the UK Border Force officials.

Police said it had led to “several arrests and anti-social behaviour notices issued with a view to seeking Asbos in due course where appropriate”.

But charities working with the homeless said Asbos and arrests would force vulnerable people out of the areas where mental health services know them well. 

Others said that begging and homelessness should be treated as separate issues. They said begging should not be criminalised as benefit reforms meant some people were turning to “survival crime”.

Duncan Shrubsole, who is the director of policy and external affairs at Crisis, warned that the police operation was “aggressively targeting and potentially criminalising some of the most vulnerable people in society”, adding: “We don’t see how this is going to help anyone. What homeless people really need is access to services and support to help them get off the streets and to rebuild their lives.”

Shelagh O’Connor, director of New Horizon Youth Centre, based in Chalton Street, Somers Town, said: “We are concerned if police are targeting people who have literally no access to anything. The recession has really changed things. Before, people had something to fall back on, and now they don’t. For some, their only income is now begging.”

Ms O’Connor added that issuing Asbos  “rarely” helps the situation, even if anti-social behaviour is a problem. 

“If you’re from Camden, you know the agencies here. But then if you’re moved away through arrest, or receive an Asbo and can’t come back to the area, then you’re left with no one again. If homeless people are taken off the streets, where they’re visible to police, they will frequent stairwells or the canal bank in Camden Town. Those places are more dangerous for them, and they’re harder for our outreach teams to access.”

A spokesman for the charity Homeless Link added that if police “associated homelessness and begging it could perpetuate a misconception”.

Alison Newcomb, the Metropolitan Police Service Commander who is leading the operation, said the police priority was “to ensure London’s streets are safe”.

She added: “We recognise that some people we engage with are vulnerable which is why we are encouraging them to access services to gain the support they need, while taking affirmative action against persistent offenders who break the law or cause intimidation to passing members of the public.”

 

Comments

This Do In Rememberance of Me

I am not the one to shove Jesus in someone’s face, much less down their throats, and, when speaking about him in this context – it will be to touch on and hopefully identify with his humanity, more importantly, his ministry in action, compassion and deed empowering the poor and homeless. It is easy to place myself with the crowds of people who were driven to come and listen to this unique individual who was charged to flip the script and inspire those around him to become the blade of grass that grows from the cracks in the sidewalk. And, of a truth, I see this man called Jesus today as he is clearly discernable in the lives of those who share their blood, bread, sweat and tears in the service of those less fortunate than themselves with no conditions attached.

The Met have announced plans to make ‘rough sleeping’ a crime in six London boroughs. Operation Encompass will be in effect in Camden, Islington, Lambeth, Southwark and Westminster, alongside Croydon which will see the police working with the local authority, UK Border Force and other agencies to target these homeless and vulnerable people.

As Founder of a homeless charity and that of my fellows, we have been down this road before and fought the good fight. However, I want to focus on life of Jesus who was also a rough sleeper as there were many occasions where he did not have a place to lay his head. There is a passage in the bible that is close to my heart where Jesus says, “This Do in Remembrance of Me.” He spoke these words to his disciples when sharing the bread and wine as this would be his last supper with them. For some strange reason we have taken these words and memorialized them through a type of symbolic and traditional overture – yet I believe there was a larger calling and directive. I believe it is high time to touch on the faith of Peter and step off the boat and lay down our lives for the poor and homeless in protest to Operation Encompass and any other organisation that criminalises and defrocks the universal instrinsic human rights of the homeless and poor.

This I will do in Remembrance of Him.

Revd Rudi Richardson
Founder – Streetlytes-UK

Disgusting..

This is a disgusting situation; In most cases, the system we feed has forced these poor souls out of homes and onto the streets in the first place. Then councils and Police who should be looking out for these vulnerable people, instead is criminalising them and abusing them.

This is a truly disgusting mis-use of public funds being squandered on non essential needs. Enough is enough, find some humanity before it happens to you...

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