Police have been accused of ‘barbaric’ behaviour as people’s only homes are destroyed [TWEETS]

Camden Police Homeless
Steve Topple

Campaigners have accused police and a local council of “barbaric” behaviour, amid allegations they are “destroying” people’s homes.

A ‘last resort’?

Camden police and Labour-led Camden Council have been removing tents and shelters used by rough sleepers. They claim this is to help people “move off the street and rebuild their lives”. But homelessness support group Streets Kitchen disagrees.

As The Camden New Journal reported:

Tents have been confiscated from at least four sites in recent weeks in what the authorities say is a last resort after attempts to engage with those living inside were turned down.

It detailed six incidents in four locations of homeless people being forced to remove their tents, or police forcibly removing them. The incidents were all located in and around Camden Town. And two incidents reportedly resulted in people not receiving any support.

Authorities have been working with the Camden Safer Streets Team (SST) which claims it is ‘engaging’ with the people whose shelters it is removing:

“Barbaric”

But Jon Glackin from Streets Kitchen disagrees. He told The Canary:

Over the last few weeks we have been hearing more and more of our homeless friends… telling us of the police and the council not only taking tents but sleeping equipment like sleeping bags and roll mats. The basic stuff people need to keep them alive and semi-comfortable on these cold nights…

To hear… that [the authorities] are actively targeting so called ‘homeless hotspot areas’ with the express intention of taking people’s only basic form of shelter and warmth away is sickening… Destroying people’s basic shelters like tents is not the answer, that’s barbaric; supplying more beds with support is the simple answer.

A ‘problem’

The “problem” Camden SST refers to is a rise of about 140% in the number of people sleeping rough in the borough between 2010 and 2016. The council claims this is due to:

The government’s ill-considered and punitive austerity measures…

The police and council’s activity is in the Camden Town area. Also during this period, the council has been running “Clean Camden” fortnight. Meanwhile, it’s running a consultation on “green space improvements” in the same area, before work begins on Euston Station’s HS2 upgrade.

And Glackin noted the 59-bed Holmes Road homeless hostel project, which was the ‘Overall Winner’ in the 2016 New London Architecture Awards, is still not officially open. Glackin told The Canary the tent crackdown is “particularly galling” when Holmes Road should have been completed in October 2016.

Camden’s “biggest shame”

Camden police told The Camden New Journal:

[We] do not want to criminalise people for being homeless. Our aim is to help the many vulnerable people who live on the streets by attempting engagement and offering diversion options… Any enforcement action that is undertaken is only used when people refuse to engage and have refused diversion on at least two occasions.

You can read Camden Council’s response here. But Glackin told The Canary:

We will continue to provide tents, sleeping bags as well as warm clothes, hot food & company most evenings in Camden. The fact that Streets Kitchen has to keep going… to simply keep people alive should be Camden’s biggest shame.

Get Involved!

– Support Streets Kitchen.

– Read more from The Canary on homelessness and the housing crisis.

Featured image via screengrab

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