Hackney Council responds after enforcement officers seen ‘issuing tickets to homeless people’

Homeless tents on the pavement in Mare Street earlier this year. Picture: Polly Hancock

Homeless tents on the pavement in Mare Street earlier this year. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

Hackney Council has responded to backlash sparked by its enforcement officers being seen giving “tickets” to homeless people and threatening to call police if they didn’t move on.

A tweet by Oonagh Ryder last week said: “Sad to see @hackneycouncil enforcement officers out today, issuing tickets to homeless people and threatening to call the police if they don’t move on.

“What are you hoping to achieve through this @hackneycouncil?”

Hackney mayor Phil Glanville responded by saying he was asking for an update on the situation. And now the council’s community safety chief Cllr Caroline Selman has said: “Both the mayor and I have personally made enquiries in relation to this case.

“The lady in question has not been issued with an antisocial behaviour warning, notice or fine and has been referred on to support services for onward engagement.”

The town hall said it did not take enforcement action against the act of rough sleeping itself, and only would do so when anti-social behaviour was taking place, such as drug use, drunkenness or threatening behaviour.

The furore follows a similar row three years ago when the council was widely criticised for introducing a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) that could have seen rough sleepers fined up to £1,000 as a “last resort”.

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It was subsequently dropped after 80,000 people signed a petition objecting.

The council said at the time it was designed to tackle a handful of entrenched rough sleepers who “resisted all attempts to house them and help them” and were causing anti-social behaviour.

But Oonah told the Gazette the council was just trying to legitimise its actions.

She said: “Targeting anti-social behaviour is a common tactic of councils to avoid looking like they are criminalising homelessness by instead criminalising certain behaviours associated with homelessness.

“What I saw was a woman being targeted by council enforcement officers and moved out of an area because she was begging for the money she needed to stay warm and safe.

“It is not good enough for Hackney Council to legitimise their actions by defining begging as an individual’s ‘anti-social behaviour’ rather than as a symptom of the broader societal problem of deep inequality.

“Councils must tackle the root causes of homelessness, not just massage their statistics by pushing people into neighbouring boroughs or into the criminal justice system.”