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Hackney criminalises homelessness – email your councillor

Cat-And-Mutton-London1What do you do when the housing crisis gets so bad more and more people have to sleep on the streets?

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:


Hello,

I am inset your name, resident in insert your ward. I would like to know what this is about:

http://hackneycitizen.co.uk/2015/05/15/hackneys-ban-rough-sleeping-criminalise-homeless-warns-charity/

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.

With regards,
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

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9 thoughts on “Hackney criminalises homelessness – email your councillor

  1. Pingback: Welfare Conditionality » Public Spaces Protection Orders, rough sleepers and media storms

  2. Pingback: Public Spaces Protection Orders, rough sleepers and media storms | Social Policy, Housing, Environment and Real Estate blog

  3. Pingback: Fines For Homeless People From Hackney Council Petitioned By Thousands - Use It DoUse It Do

  4. I dont live in hackney or even in london but I feel very strogly about this, as do many people across the country. I have had an idea which is to have a mass street sleep in solidarity to the homeless people. Just wondered what others think?

  5. Thank you very much Hackney Renters!

    Below is the petition started a few days ago. The last measure was only defeated once Oxford council after significant public pressure. Please email your councillor as above and **SIGN and SHARE** the petition below on your Facebook and Twitter feeds!

    https://www.change.org/p/hackney-council-stop-criminalising-hackney-s-rough-sleepers

    Reclaim Hackney are also meeting on Thurs 4th June, 7pm at the Halkevi Centre, Dalston Lane.

  6. Hi,

    I’m so glad you are responding to these measures introduced by Hackney Council. I will definitely write a letter as you have suggested and would be interested in any other moves to campaign against this.

    I have also started a petition on Change.org which currently has just over 1,100 signatures. Remember that a petition against similar proposals put forward by Oxford City Council was hugely successful and managed to get the proposals dropped after over 72,000 people signed their Change.org petition. Let’s see if we can try to model their success – as well as writing to your councillor, please do sign and share this petition: https://www.change.org/p/hackney-council-stop-criminalising-hackney-s-rough-sleepers

    Many thanks,

    Zahira

  7. The “Find your councillor” function doesn’t seem to be working, so you may have to find them manually, here http://mginternet.hackney.gov.uk/mgMemberIndex.aspx?bcr=1

    Here’s the text of the message I just sent them:

    Dear xxx,

    As a resident of XXXX, I’m writing to you with regards the recent story in the Hackney Citizen (15 May) about the move by Hackney Council to introduce a Public Space Protection Order to criminalise so-called “anti-social behaviour” in large parts of the borough:
    http://hackneycitizen.co.uk/2015/05/15/hackneys-ban-rough-sleeping-criminalise-homeless-warns-charity/

    This will involve punitive fines of £100 – and potentially £1000 court fines – for begging, rough sleeping and other activities. I am deeply disturbed by this measure, which criminalises some of the most vulnerable members of our community. Given the current housing crisis and explosion in rents in Hackney, combined with the government cuts to welfare, the effects of this policy are particularly cruel and malicious. It looks very much like social cleansing: an attempt by Hackney council to “clean up” the borough on behalf of its more affluent residents and visitors.

    Large numbers of people are being evicted from their homes in Hackney with many of them ending up on the streets. Did you consider improvements in your services for the homeless before you introduced this measure? Have you taken action to strengthen the position of tenants against unscrupulous landlords carrying out evictions? If not, why not? This policy of criminalising the homeless persecutes the victims, rather than stopping the perpetrators.

    It is all the worse for the fact the PSPO has apparently been introduced without public consultation. Why were Hackney residents not asked about these measures? Had you bothered to consult, you might have discovered that Hackney residents aren’t quite so devoid of compassion as some of our politicians. Notably, when Oxford City Council recently carried out a similar move to ban rough sleepers with PSPOs, they were forced to back down in the face of widespread public revulsion.

    In addition to sleeping rough, other activities, such as public urination, should not be criminalised. Although you and your colleagues might think these activities objectionable in public, please consider that they are vital for human beings to live and function. The homeless are systematically excluded from private spaces (they can hardly pop into a restaurant to use the toilet so easily, like you or I) and now the PSPO risks denying them the basic right to be and exist in public space too. What is Hackney council doing to improve its provision of public toilets? Without better provision, this move looks like another punitive response to your own failed policies.

    I look forward to your response on these issues and hope that you will reconsider this fundamentally flawed and inhumane policy.

    Best regards,

    Guy AC

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