A homeless man from Bristol has been jailed for six months because he broke an injunction to stop him begging. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Across the country, as homelessness rises, councils and police are criminalising and blaming – rather than supporting – homeless people.
“For his own good”
On 9 February, Adrian Hill was sentenced to six months in prison. He had breached an injunction that banned him from entering Clifton Village in Bristol or begging anywhere in the city. District Judge Watson said it was the seventh time he had appeared in court for “multiple breaches”, and passed sentence.
The Bristol Post reports that:
Bristol City Council said they were forced to take action because of his “destructive lifestyle” and that it was for his own good.
But an expert on property and housing law challenged this claim.
It is just stupid. The issues here are not criminal, they are structural… There is no precise law against begging. What is happening here is they are criminalising begging through the injunction process.
And Cowan nailed “the real issue”:
The real issue here is not begging, it’s the existence of begging against a backdrop of austerity. What are they to do? What are the options? Austerity affects local government and forces them to push to criminalise.
A Bristol City Council spokesperson said:
We always work to support people and offer them a route out of a destructive lifestyle but ultimately, if they are refusing to do that, we must take action for the good of the community and the person trapped in that situation.
But the pattern of blaming homelessness on individual ‘lifestyle choices’ rather than societal failings seems to be happening across the UK.
The attraction of the homeless to the area is having a detrimental effect on the perception of Falmouth from both locals and visitors.
And this rationale seems to be part of a growing trend. As The Canary previously reported, a business leader said homeless people were “putting people off” shopping. And in January, councillor Simon Dudley suggested ‘clearing’ Windsor of homeless people ahead of the royal wedding.
What’s more, according to local press in Falmouth:
Councillors were told that sleeping rough for some of the group is “a lifestyle choice” and they are not interested in securing a home.
But as Falmouth Town Councillor Anna Gillett told The Canary, the situation is far more complex:
Nobody likes to be reminded of the homeless and their plight. That they exist is a reminder of how polarised our society is and how far some how fallen through the safety net of which we used to be proud.
A homeless man is in jail for six months. Homeless people are not welcome near shoppers or tourists. Another homeless man has been living in a phone box in Birmingham for four months. As The Canary‘s Steve Topple put it:
This is Tory Britain, where the number of rough sleepers rose by 169% between 2010 and 2017; and where the number of households in temporary accommodation on 30 September 2017 had gone up by 65% since 31 December 2010.
Is anyone to blame?
As Gillett told The Canary:
We can blame central government and we must. This decline in public health. This increase in homelessness and self-medicating has been overseen by first the coalition and now the Tories. Trying to manage so many personal tragedies with reduced budgets and reduced resources – both human and practical – is never going to paper over the cracks, never mind fix our societal wrongs.
The move towards criminalising or blaming homeless people for their situation must stop. Homelessness is not a crime.
– Support Help the Homeless which gives grants to homeless charities across the UK.
Featured image via Max Pixel
We need your help ...
The coronavirus pandemic is changing our world, fast. And we will do all we can to keep bringing you news and analysis throughout. But we are worried about maintaining enough income to pay our staff and minimal overheads.
Now, more than ever, we need a vibrant, independent media that holds the government to account and calls it out when it puts vested economic interests above human lives. We need a media that shows solidarity with the people most affected by the crisis – and one that can help to build a world based on collaboration and compassion.
We have been fighting against an establishment that is trying to shut us down. And like most independent media, we don’t have the deep pockets of investors to call on to bail us out.
Can you help by chipping in a few pounds each month?