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Monday, February 29, 2016

Councils criminalising the street homeless

We have already seen an attempt by Newport Council to criminalise rough sleepers dropped following strong public opposition, including by local Liberal Democrats, however it seems that they are not alone.

According to the Independent, one in ten local councils are using Public Space Protection Orders introduced by the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act to prevent anti-social behaviour to criminalise homelessness persons:

Freedom of information requests to local authorities by the VICE News website found that 36 local authorities were targeting rough sleepers with Public Space Protection Orders.

PSPOs are local regulations which can be used by councillors to ban anything with a “detrimental effect on the quality of life of those in the locality”.

In 36 of 78 cases the orders are being used to make activities common amongst homeless people illegal, an analysis by the website shows. There are 375 local authorities in England and Wales.

Anyone found in breach of a PSPO has to pay a £100 penalty fine and can face a criminal record and £1,000 if they fail to pay – as a person lacking a home or reliable income might.

The paper says: Hackney Borough Council in north London scrapped plans for a similar PSPO after a backlash against the plans.

“It is absurd to impose a fine of £1,000 on somebody who is already homeless and struggling,” petitioner Zahira Patel wrote last summer during the row.

“People should not be punished for the 'crime' of not having a roof over their head - there is nothing inherently 'anti social' or criminal about rough sleeping.”

Housing and homelessness charities including Crisis warned that any move to ban rough sleeping would be “counterproductive”.

I agree. Imposing fines on homeless people and persecuting them is pointless. It is far better to  invest in support and facilities that will get them off the streets and on the road to recovery.
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