Criminalise rough sleeping?
This is the step being taken by Hackney council who are introducing a new new Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) to stop apparently “anti-social” activities like begging and sleeping rough.
Those who breach the order, which covers the areas of Hackney Downs, London Fields, Broadway Market, Mare Street and Regents Canal, could be issued a £100 fixed penalty notice or a fine of up to £1,000. Read the full article here from the Hackney Citizen.
We at Digs think this absolutely stinks. Why should people suffering the worse impact of the housing crisis be made to suffer further for the failings of central and local government to house them? How exactly are people sleeping rough supposed to pay a fine of £100? The cynical amongst us would say this is a cruel attempt to sweep away the most vulnerable and replace them with an all together better class of citizen.
We can’t let them get away with it! As well as getting together with other activists to discuss how we can take action, we encourage you to send an email to our ward councillors and Phillip Glaville, the Cabinet Lead for housing. Click here to find your ward councillors.
Here’s an example email you might want to use a template, though it’s even better if you use some of your own words:
I am inset your name, resident in insert your ward. I would like to know what this is about:
Exactly why do we now have a punishment scheme for people begging and the homeless? Now is a time of increasing evictions due to spiked rents and retaliatory evictions. The Council still has done nothing to combat – the Council continues to register complaints about housing standards by the name of the tenant rather than the name of the landlord so that landlords evicting maliciously cannot be identified or traced and retailiatory eviction tactics are not challenged. This is something which Hackney renters group Digs brought up a year ago and has yet to see action on. In this context why has the Council found it reasonable to slap the most vulnerable people in our borough with fines?
Despite the assertions of Council spokespeople that this would be a last resort, I would ask why a resort before implementing the PSPO was not to assess whether your homeless services are doing enough (evidently not if we have recurrent rough sleeping), whether you have enough public urinals and toilets for the homeless (clearly not if they’re using walls and doors), and whether there was any consultation on this with Hackney residents. Did you consult before bringing this in? If consultation did occur it wasn’t advertised in the way to make it meaningful.
And finally exactly what is the thinking of Hackney Council about how a person begging or rough sleeping can afford a £100 fine or £1,000 court fine? Is it the thinking of Hackney Council that people begging and the homeless are hiding hundreds of pounds in their belongings? And if not, then exactly how are these people supposed to pay this ludicrous fine, and if they can’t what happens to them? Arrests or imprisonment? Either this punishment is meaningless as you have no intention to ever receive the payment, or it is merely cruel and brutalising towards the poorest and most vulnerable in our borough.
I am addressing you as my local Councillors and therefore want your thoughts, not the thoughts of a Council spokesperson on this. As your constituent I want you to firmly and immediately act to withdraw this policy.
Insert your name
We’ll also be at a meeting on Thursday 21st May, 7-9pm at the Halkevi Centre, where we’ll talk about gentrification issues, including this worrying move to criminalise homelessness. Come down if you can.
Follow us on twitter to keep up with the campaign against the criminalisation of homelessness in Hackney: twitter.com/Hackney_renters