A Tory councillor is defending her call to ‘tear down’ homeless people’s tents. It really isn’t going well.

Tent in a shop doorway and 'dead' Twitter logo
Glen Black

On 24 January, a Tory councillor said she wanted to “tear down” tents belonging to homeless people on the streets of Cardiff. She said this would benefit “safety in our city centre” and “prosperity for local businesses”. But the true ignorance of her views came out when she tried to defend herself.

“WTF is wrong with you ???”

Kathryn Kelloway, a Conservative councillor in Cardiff, called on the city’s council leader Huw Thomas to “tear down” the tents of homeless people. Kelloway even included a photo of herself standing next to some of the tents:

As the replies-to-likes ratio of Kelloway’s tweet suggests (about 1,900 to 270 at the time of writing), the councillor’s take didn’t go down well. Being a Tory, Kelloway left herself wide open to comments about her own party’s role in worsening the issue:

Meanwhile, some pointed out Kelloway’s privileged position:

The councillor’s lack of empathy outraged some:

Others were more direct in their response:

And one person summed up the whole debacle:

The problem with hostels

Kelloway followed up her initial tweet by trying to play it off as an attempt to “raise attention” about people sleeping on the streets of Cardiff. Then the councillor defended her comments. And that’s when she showed her true ignorance.

Kelloway first claimed that there are “more than enough hostel beds” for all the people on Cardiff’s streets right now. She then said she has “worked for homeless charities” and therefore understands the issue. Despite this, Kelloway doesn’t seem to understand why many people choose not to enter hostels.

Just the day before, housing campaigner Jennie Bibbings said people choose tents “because floorspace is frightening, unsafe & full of drugs”:

This is widely understood. In 2016, the Big Issue published a piece detailing the problems four of its vendors had with hostels. Drugs and alcohol were mentioned. Overcrowding, lack of respect from staff, and restrictions on personal freedom were highlighted. The piece also pointed out the excessive cost of staying in a hostel. One vendor had to claim “£866 a month” in housing benefit.

In the end, there are as many reasons to avoid hostels as there are people sleeping in tents. A WalesOnline article from December 2018 said one man sleeping on the streets of Cardiff “refused because of the effect [a hostel] might have on his dog”. Another man was concerned his belongings would be stolen.

As The Canary previously reported:

funding cuts have meant many [hostels] are dangerous and volatile environments which accentuate vulnerable people’s worst habits.

It’s therefore not hard to see why people might choose tents over hostels.

Austerity

Kelloway defended herself by claiming to understand the issue and saying there are enough beds in hostels for all. But it’s clear she’s either naively or wilfully ignoring the real issues.

The decision to remain in a tent rather than entering a hostel has numerous, complex motivations. Underlining these are a desire for dignity and empowerment. However, this is something Kelloway shuts down by claiming tents are attacking the “safety” and “prosperity” of Cardiff.

No government has yet ‘solved’ the issue of people sleeping on the streets. But, as The Canary has reported multiple times, Tory austerity has pushed numbers to horrific levels. If she really cares, maybe Kelloway needs to look at her own party first.

Featured image via PublicDomainPictures

Get involved

  • Support grassroots groups such as Streets Kitchen, who offer “solidarity not charity” with people that are homeless.
  • Read more at The Canary about homelessness and the effects of austerity.

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