SAY NO TO PSPO: Don't criminalise Worthing's rough sleepers
This petition had 86,631 supporters
Worthing Council’s recently passed ‘Public Space Protection Orders’ will give the police and council officers the power to ban "anti-social" activities such as sleeping rough (defined as overnight camping) or begging. Those who breach an order could be issued with a £50 fixed penalty notice or a fine of up to £1,000 for non-payment. This law will effectively criminalise someone for being homeless. This is at a time when the night shelters in Worthing, a safe haven for homeless people unable to access other services have just closed due to a lack of resources. This will hit already very vulnerable people who will be left with nowhere else to go.
This PSPO will also legitimise prejudice towards homeless people. This law will only lead to marginalising the homeless further, exacerbating the problem so they will be less able to seek the support they need. 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.
People become homeless for a number of reasons, for example due to mental health, financial, family issues or a lack of adequate housing options. Alcohol/substance use is more often a consequence not a cause of people’s homelessness and the underlying issues can by addressed through the help of supporting agencies. Rather than criminalising and pushing away the homeless making them hidden through the use of a PSPO, the council’s resources and attention would be better focused on providing provision such as extending the night shelters, a safe space for homeless people to sleep throughout the year so they will be more likely to get the help they so desperately need.
Penalising people for being homeless (begging/street drinking and rough sleeping/overnight camping) is a political choice. We demand the Council overturn these PSPOs in favour or re-opening the night shelters (which were in high demand and helped people access services before they were closed in March) as a much more effective long term strategy to reducing these behaviours by preventing people living on the streets.
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