Saturday, 25 April 2015

Charity criticises shift towards criminalising homelessness in Europe

Charity hits out at rough sleeping laws

An international federation of homelessness organisations has warned that London has joined a ‘worrying’ Europe-wide trend to criminalise homeless people.

Feantsa, the European Federation of National Organisations Working with the Homeless, spoke out after rough sleeping was outlawed in Budapest.

The federation, which has more than 100 members across the EU, drew parallels with Westminster Council’s plans for a new by-law that would ban rough sleeping in certain areas of the central London borough. It said there was an ‘alarming’ and ‘cruel’ development across Europe, including in Madrid, London and Prague, to expel homeless people from public spaces.

The federation said governments of EU member states had committed to developing homelessness strategies and had pledged to take steps to end the problem. However it added: ‘Municipal administrations are offering responses that would exacerbate the social exclusion and human rights violation of people experiencing homelessness.’

Westminster Council’s proposed ban on rough sleeping in some areas has been largely condemned by homelessness charities.

Jenny Edwards, chief executive of umbrella group Homeless Link, said the ‘trend’ identified by Feantsa should be seen as a sign that authorities have ‘not got to grips with providing the right routes off the streets’.

She added: ‘What they are left with is punishing people, which is not the answer.’

Daniel Astaire, cabinet member for society, families and adult services at Westminster Council, said: ‘Westminster does a huge amount to help rough sleepers and spends £9 million per year on rough sleeping services – more than any other local authority.

‘Ultimately, we all share the same aspirations and that is to help those who have ended up on the streets off them and into better lives.’   

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