Charity warning on council’s order to ban rough sleeping

File photo dated 23/12/14 of a homeless man in London, as rising numbers of people are facing homele

File photo dated 23/12/14 of a homeless man in London, as rising numbers of people are facing homelessness in England amid a string of benefit cuts and a "woeful lack of affordable housing" - with an estimated 280,000 cases taking place last year, a report has found. - Credit: PA Wire/Press Association Images

A national charity has warned that a new zone which bans anti-social behaviour in designated Hackney ‘hot spots’ will criminalise the homeless.

The council’s new public space protection order (PSPO), which launched in April, has been put in place to tackle anti-social behaviour such as drinking, begging and loitering in the borough.

The order also extends to people who are rough sleeping and covers Hackney Downs, London Fields, Broadway Market, Mare Street and Regents Canal.

PSPOs will allow police or council officers to ask people to give up certain items such as alcohol and breaching the order could result in a £100 fixed penalty notice or court action with a fine of up to £1,000.

But national homeless charity Crisis branded the move “counter-productive.”

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, said: “Rough sleepers are far more likely to be the victims of crime than the perpetrators.

“Any moves to ban and criminalise rough sleeping will be counter-productive and only make it harder for people to access the dedicated support they need to move away from the streets for good.

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“People in desperate circumstances deserve better than to be treated as a nuisance – they may have suffered a relationship breakdown, a bereavement or abuse. The real issue here is the substantial rise in homelessness in recent years, with rough sleeping in London up by 79 per cent since 2010.”

Cllr Sophie Linden, deputy mayor, said: “The level of street drinking, persistent rough sleeping and the associated anti-social behaviour in the area reached the point that we had to take further action on behalf of local residents, community and businesses.

“We introduced this order after trying for months to deal with anti-social behaviour in the area – including offering support, housing and advice to those that are persistently sleeping rough.”

“Enforcement action will always be the last resort,” she added.

We will continue to make sure anyone who is sleeping rough is offered professional help and support.”