Stop targeting Oxford's rough sleepers
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Being homeless in Oxford is incredibly difficult. But now the City Council is targeting rough sleepers with community protection notices by removing their belongings and threatening them with fines of up to £2,500.
Rough sleepers who keep their bags in doorways are being told that they are having a "detrimental of a persistent or continuing nature on the quality of life of those in the locality" and that their "conduct is unreasonable."
We at On Your Doorstep (OUSU's official homelessness campaign) f0eel that this move is an effort to target rough sleepers and that the council is failing to acknowledge the difficulties faced by rough sleepers. It ignores the wider issue of Oxford's housing crisis and the lack of adequate provision from homelessness services.
Oxford's budget for homelessness services was recently slashed by 65% by the county council, resulting in the decision to close two homelessness projects and cutting the number of beds from 286 to 141. There just aren't enough spaces anymore.
Community Protection Notices are usually issued for "anti-social" behaviours such as graffiti and dog fouling. By issuing them to rough sleepers, the city council is classing rough sleeping as an anti-social "choice", when in fact it is those with no remaining options who end up on the streets.
In 2015, the city council tried to include a clause in their Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) that would effectively illegalise rough sleeping. We stopped them from doing this, but now they're finding other ways to target rough sleepers. We would like the council to issue an official statement confirming that they will no longer use anti-social behaviour legislation to target rough sleepers.
The homeless are often ignored or treated as an "eyesore", especially in a rich city such as Oxford. Criminalising them just makes their lives harder, and they eventually are issued fines they cannot afford to pay, which will merely increase the behaviour of "aggressive begging" which the council seeks to end.
2017 has seen increased awareness of homelessness in Oxford. The Iffley Open House project saw residents and students come together to provide a solution to homelessness. We've seen what public support can do - so let's stop this happening now, and show that being homeless isn't a crime.
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