New funds have been awarded to Hackney and Tower Hamlets to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping in the boroughs.
Both boroughs and the City of London have received £330,000 to run a joint project dealing with the expanding challenge of rough sleepers in the area.
The funding comes from the Department for Communities and Local Government and the Mayor of London. Specific details of the project have not yet been released.
The announcement follows a Hackney Council measure order cracking down on anti social behaviour including begging and rough sleeping. The authority has become the latest borough to introduce Public Space Protection Orders (PSPO) which allows police or community support officers to ask people to stop begging or sleeping rough in doorways or other public places. Those refusing to comply with the PSPO can be fined up to £1,000.
They have slowly pushed a lot of people out of the city, and that’s why there’s a lot of people in Hackney now. They seem to be pushing everyone away. – Alan Paul, homeless in Hackney
A Hackney Council spokesperson said: “We were confronted with a dilemma; residents, visitors and businesses are faced with anti-social behaviour that has become entrenched and it is having a very real impact on their day-to-day lives.
“By putting in this PSPO, we aren’t trying to criminalise the vulnerable, we are trying to tackle anti-social behaviour and disorder in specific public places, help people off the streets and balance the needs of residents, businesses and the wider community.”
He pointed out that the PSPO extends to include “persistent street drinking and rough sleeping, urinating in the street, defecating in the churchyard, fighting and being abusive to members of public and spitting on passers-by.” According to the PSPO, “enforcement action is always the last option.”
This order is enabling homeless charities to better engage with people caught up with anti social behaviour. – Mike Nicholas, Thames Reach
The council denied suggestions that the PSPO has been only put in place where housing prices are higher: “The PSPO has been put in place where there are consistent anti-social behaviour issues. We are trying to help people off the streets and into housing and support. Our community wardens go out accompanied by specialist outreach workers, and rough sleepers are all offered support and a bed.”
Alan Paul from Hackney told Eastlondonlines he has been homeless for “several years”, and fears the PSPO is nothing but an “out of sight, out of mind” solution.
“They have slowly pushed a lot of people out of the city, and that’s why there’s a lot of people in Hackney now. They seem to be pushing everyone away.”
He praised the many charities in the area, but said government efforts are “not good enough.”
“There are a lot of homeless people in Hackney, and this order makes life harder for us, really. If you got nowhere to go, you got nowhere to go.”
Jon Sparkes, Chief Executive of homeless charity Crisis said: “Rough sleepers are far more likely to be the victims of crime than the perpetrators. Any moves to ban and criminalise rough sleeping will be counter-productive and only make it harder for people to access the dedicated support they need to move away from the streets for good.”
But Mike Nicholas, spokesman for the homelessness charity Thames Reach, whose staff operate on the ground in Hackney, disagreed, telling Eastlondonlines that he believes the new PSPO has been misreported: “This is an initiative designed to tackle anti-social behaviour, but it is being treated as if it is targeted at homeless people. It doesn’t target people who are homeless, but people who are engaged in drugs and street drinking. This order is enabling homeless charities to better engage with people caught up with anti social behaviour.
“Its use has meant people who were engaged in a street lifestyle and who had previously refused to engage with support services have now taken up offers of help from homelessness charities,” Nicholas said.
See the areas affected by PSPO in the map below.
In 2008 the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, committed to ending rough sleeping in London by 2012. Despite this pledge, which included the No Second Night Out initiative launched in 2010 and taking to the streets himself, the amount of people sleeping rough increased every year between 2010 and 2014, according to a February 2015 report commissioned by the Combined Homelessness and Information Network (CHAIN).