Sunday, 01 March 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.’

Readers' comments (26)

  • Chris Webb

    Perhaps the Church should consider a comment about the political forces denying the destitute from accessing the precints of potential sanctury. How does the actions of Westminster City Council sit with the Church's philosophy, and why is the Church standing idly by and allowing such actions to happen.

    Meanwhile, I will definately consider this deterance when trying to find my next mortgage payment - I would not wish Jeremy Swain accusing me of choosing to become homeless. What a disgusting joining in with the undeserving poor argument - disgraceful.

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  • Can't have the powerful people of Westminster being in the vincinity of the poor people, (some of whom have probably been put there by their recent policy) those damned homeless people!

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  • Outside Housing

    The main point here is the specific location "Westminster Cathedral piazza and the surrounding area." I work close to Westminster Abbey and Cathedral and I have heard a rumour that there might be some kind of royal wedding event going on here sometime in the near future?

    And PSR, I think Jeremy Swain saying "the harmful lifestyle they have adopted" isn't the same as saying "chosing to become homeless".

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  • Ffyona Macewan

    Yes, but a poor man may look upon a king nonetheless, therefore the poor and destiute do have as valid a claim to any good veiwing places come the 29th April as the rest of us.
    However, I do agree that handouts may not be the best service to provide to homeless people, however noble the intention.
    That said, I wouldn't mind hearing exactly what these sterling services are that Cllr Astaire provides that conspicuously help people off the streets of Westminstr?? And have they been affected by cuts, sorry, effeciency savings at all?

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  • What is most worrying is what this tells us about the mind set that is driving the people who support the Coalition. 'Soup runs' would, to me, be the kind of voluntary activity that would fit neatly in with the public face of the Big Society. Apparently not in the heart of our capital. The Big Society's voluntary aspects are clearly only for those who fit into the criteria determined by the great and good. Which it would seem exclude the homeless in Westminster. Next time Call-me-Dave pops up, earnestly and disingenuously banging on about the Big Society, perhaps we can remind those reporting his comments of this small but significant development? Then the world might just see the Big Society for what it is - a cover for the dismantling of services to the public and a shift in power towards an unholy mix of big business and self appointed guardians of the public good.

    It would be nice to think that enough homeless/unemployed/low paid people could gate crash the forthcoming nuptials of an undeserving aristocrat to a middle class girl and maybe draw the world's media attention to what being British really means...

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  • Chris Webb

    Gresley - I don't think Dave would support such a protest as legitimate, and would probably therefore support the use of force and violence to prevent it; after all it is one thing to dictate to other dictators, but not on one's doorstep.
    It would be as likely as the UN reversing its refusal to take action against Isreal for the mass murder of residents within their nation, including through the use of air-strikes, in light of the UN taking action against Libya for the mass murder of residents within their nation including through the use of air-strikes.
    The double standards of Dave, Westminster, and the UN would seem therefore to support each other in the cause of denegrating the poor.

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  • Teeth, spit!!

    If the soup incentive were removed, perhaps London's street sleepers could eat cake?

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  • abner arrow

    Please everyone make comments on this disgraceful action. I will later on

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  • Ah....Now I am beginning to understand the "Big Society". Its big as in bully.

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  • Its all becoming clear One of Camerons right hand men was quoted as saying that the Conservatives "plan to introduce a period of creative destruction in the public services".

    Another said we want their "people power" revolution to unleash "chaotic" effects across local communities.

    Now Westminster are showing the way
    IIts the Big Society in action

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  • Melvin Bone

    I thought Labour had eliminated homelessness and poverty?

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  • It's the adding of insult to injury that is so breathtaking.

    Nobody sleeps rough because of free soup. These people aren't pigeons, to be treated like vermin, they are victims. If they had any real 'choice' this is not the lifestyle they'd pick.

    Taking away what little charity the homeless receive gets presented as if you are somehow doing them a favour. Well you're not, you're kicking them while they are down, a particularly Tory characteristic., attacking the weakest because they are too weak to resist you

    And who the hell do you think you are to dictate with whom we may share our food? Vicious, authoritarian and unenforceable. Never mind the 21st century, this is the 19th all over again

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  • "soup runs have no place in the 21st Century", we send all our homeless people to those Scottish Councils who treat homeless people as in priority need of housing. So says Daniel in Westminster!!!!

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  • David Coombe

    I am mindful of the signs displayed in Trafalgar Square "Do not feed the pigeons"

    Deut. 15:7. If there is a poor man among you, one of your brothers, in any of the towns of the land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart, nor close your hand to your poor brother; but you shall freely open your hand to him, and generously lend him sufficient for his need in whatever he lacks.


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  • Chris Webb

    Perhaps our Housing Minister and his cronies in Westminister should also look at the biblical reference to leaving gleanings at the edge of the fields as a way of offering poor relief without robbing the poor of honour. But then those who sup with the devil.......

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  • Bonkers ! For want of a better word !!!! Perhaps the borough of Westminster have local housing stock for the taking afterall...??... if so, get these men/women into housing and off the streets, into the warm, with money to feed themselves and families... and then charities could focus on another area of our great City of London !!!! Coz lets face it... theres plenty other areas that need the services of these great people x

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  • Westrminster's actions are sadly likely to be portent of future approaches by other Coalition/New Labour councils. I agree with just about everything that has been said, especially drawing attention to the way this authoritarian approach seemingly tells me who I can and cannot feed.

    Hardly anybody chooses to live on the streets but thankfully, for Tories, some are forced to - so they can kick them when they're down. I can imagine Geroge 'Tax-me-not' Osbourne going out under cover of darkness, in anice smug Lexus, to gloat at people sleeping in doorways, winding down the window and offering them a sandwich and just as they reach out to grab roaring off into the darkness, smirking at his own venal actions.

    Anyone heard anything yet about this from Cruella de Flint?

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  • Perhaps they could attach little carts to the back of those motorised street-sweeping machines so that they can car off the bodies of starved and dead homeless people too.

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  • Jack Daniels

    Where do I go now?

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  • Chris Webb

    Hatfield - I keep telling you. There will be a large tented village called Shappsville established on the rolling farmland surrounding the housing ministers mansion.

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