Sunday, 02 August 2015

Westminster seeks to ban rough sleeping

Westminster Council wants to pass a byelaw to stop rough sleeping and soup runs on Westminster Cathedral piazza and the surrounding area.

Westminster Council announced yesterday it has launched a consultation on the proposals with residents, businesses, local day centres and hostels and the voluntary sector.

If it gets a positive response from this, it will ask the Communities and Local Government department to pass a byelaw. It wants this in place by October.

Westminster Council estimates up to 100 people at a time congregate around the piazza while food is being given out and said people travel into the area to receive food hand-outs.

The council has said vulnerable adults will be asked to leave the area before being subjected to any enforcement.

Daniel Astaire, Westminster Council’s cabinet member for society, families and adult services, said: ‘Soup runs have no place in the 21st century and it is wrong and undignified that people are being fed on the streets.

‘Handing out free food only serves to keep people on the streets for longer, damaging their health.’

He said soup runs encourage people to sleep rough in central London and the priority was to get people off the streets altogether.

‘There is no need for anyone to sleep rough in Westminster as we have a range of services that can help them off the streets to make the first steps towards getting their lives back on track,’ he said.

Jeremy Swain, chief executive of Thames Reach, said: ‘Street handouts do little to help people make the step away from rough sleeping. Instead they frequently prevent people from facing up to the reality of the harmful lifestyle they have adopted.

‘The Westminster Cathedral piazza and surrounding area has been the focus for soup run activity and rough sleeping for many years and this has inevitably had a detrimental impact on the lives of people living and working in the immediate vicinity.’

Charles Fraser, chief executive of  St Mungo’s, said: ‘While we recognize the compassion involved in providing food to vulnerable people, those in distress and rough sleeping need services that will support them off the streets for good and give them the opportunity for longer term better housing, health and work as they move on with their lives.’

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