Protestors oppose soup run ban
Protestors vowed they will clog up the courts if Westminster Council proceeds with a proposed ban on rough sleeping and soup runs in parts of the borough.
Hundreds of protestors turned out to oppose the ban yesterday, which the local authority wants to introduce with a new bye-law.
The protest started with scores of protestors lay on the ground outside the doors of the Communities and Local Government department. The CLG is one of the places rough sleeping would be banned under the proposed changes.
The protestors included volunteers, church representatives, homelessness charities and rough sleepers.
Alastair Murray, deputy director with homelessness charity Housing Justice, said the new law would ‘effectively criminalize compassion’.
‘I would be quite happy to be arrested for buying someone a cup of tea,’ he said. ‘There will be a long queue of people being arrested for buying a cup of tea. If that is what Westminster wants then bring it on.’
He said that by lying down outside the offices of the CLG the protestors had been pointing out ‘how ridiculous it is to ban people from lying down’.
Despite the sizeable turn-out the proposed ban has split opinion in the sector. Some homelessness charities have lent their support to the plans claiming that soup runs enable homeless people to stay on the streets.
In a blog on Inside Housing’s website Daniel Astaire, cabinet member for society, families and adult services at Westminster Council, said: ‘Soup runs keep people on the streets rather than helping them off’.
But Mr Murray said soup runs helped to connect homeless people to services and fill a vital gap at the current time.