Stop criminalising Hackney's rough sleepers
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Hackney Council's new "Public Space Protection Orders" will give police and council officers the power to ban "anti-social" activities such as sleeping rough or begging. Those who breach an order could be issued with a £100 fixed penalty notice or a fine of £1,000.
As homeless charities have pointed out, this will criminalise the homeless who are already vulnerable. It is absurd to impose a fine of £1,000 on somebody who is already homeless and struggling. 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. Criminalising rough sleeping privileges the appearance of Hackney and the convenience of customers over the damage caused to the vulnerable and homeless.
Note that Kay Zell Huxley, a duty manager at a pub in the area was reported to have admitted that the "vagrants hanging around" do "respect the businesses and the pubs and are generally well behaved." It is completely unjustifiable to criminalise these people simply because they "may be intimidating for people outside." We should not privilege the convenience and desire of customers to have a good night out without having to see any homeless people over the lives and rights of those who are homeless and vulnerable.
We already know that homeless people are amongst the most vulnerable in our society and are already victims of exceptionally high levels of violence, crime and victimisation which is often committed by the general public and largely goes unreported. Researchers at the London School of Economics confirmed this in a study commissioned by Crisis as far back as 2004 and the rate of homelessness has only increased since then. We should not allow measures which will make the lives of those with nowhere else to go even harder than they already are.
We have seen public pressure stop similar measures when they were proposed by Oxford City Council. Let's make sure we also stop this in Hackney and everywhere else it is proposed - we must force councils and policy makers to deal with the lack of affordable housing and rising levels of homelessness in London as a whole, rather than allow them to get away with shifting the "problem" into another borough.
Please take a moment to sign this petition. Let’s make sure that Hackney Council doesn't make rough sleeping harder than it already is!
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