Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Demonstrators to fight soup run ban

Protestors will stage a demonstration on Sunday against plans by a London council to ban soup runs and rough sleeping.

Westminster Council is consulting on plans to ask the Communities and Local Government department to approve a byelaw preventing people from lying down or sleeping in a public place, or distributing bedding, and giving out free food or drink.

If granted, the byelaw would cover a large area in the south of the borough, including Westminister Cathedral piazza and CLG’s Eland House head office.

Those caught breaking the byelaw could face a fine of up to £500.

Protestors will demonstrate against the proposals outside Westminster Cathedral on Sunday.

Alastair Murray, of campaign group Housing Justice, said: ‘This proposed byelaw threatens to marginalise and stigmatise homeless and needy people even further.

‘It will effectively criminalise compassion, making it illegal for volunteers and charities to distribute free food and offer advice to the homeless.

‘This offends against common decency and common sense.’

The council said it is concerned about the impact of rough sleeping and the distribution of refreshment on businesses and residents in the Victoria area of the borough.

It said it wants homeless people to use facilities provided in buildings by the council and third sector organisations. It believes soup runs are detrimental to rough sleepers in the long term and prolong the length of time they spend on the streets.

A consultation letter from the council states: ‘The council has to achieve a balance between the interests and concerns of the homeless people and rough sleepers on one hand, and the interests and concerns of local residents and businesses on the other.’

The consultation closes on 25 March.

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