CamdenNewJournal

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Hotel guests in King’s Cross complain rough sleepers spoil the view

Council working with police to prevent tent encampments as talks with businesses begin

18 October, 2017 — By Richard Osley

A tent which was cleared by police in nearby Euston earlier this month

HOTELS in King’s Cross have urged Camden Council to tackle homelessness after guests complained that they are opening bedroom windows to see rough sleepers on the streets.

Talks between the Town Hall and businesses are under way in hotspot areas with the discussions including how to “design” areas that are uncomfortable for nights spent in sleeping bags, a council meeting was told on Tuesday.

Jessica Gibbons, the council’s director of community services, told a cross-party panel of councillors: “A hotel group from around the King’s Cross area has contacted us, which is a collaboration of a number of different hotels, because they’ve had concerns from tourists coming to the area saying ‘look, this is great accommodation but I’m looking out at rough sleepers on the streets’.”

She told a scrutiny committee that Camden was also talking to business interest groups over running an “alternative giving campaign over the Christmas period to stop people giving money to beggars which obviously encourages people sleeping rough,” adding: “We need a holistic approach where we need to safeguard these individuals and make sure they get connected to the right services, but we need to enforce so we don’t end up with encampments in the street and we also need to design our place so that it becomes uncomfortable to sleep on the streets .”

The meeting follows direct action by police in Camden Town and Euston to remove homeless tents earlier this month. Levels of rough sleeping in Camden has doubled over the last year. Committee chairman Awale Olad, a Labour councillor, had asked what conversations council officers were having with businesses. “There is a church near me which is 1,000 years old or something, and for the first time they are putting a railing up,” he said. “There’s lots and lots of spaces where people bring up their sleeping bag and sleep. Holborn library is a big hotspot and a number of locations around Leather Lane. I’m not talking about doing the whole Tesco thing where they put up little spikes to stop people from rough sleeping, that’s completely inhumane, but are we talking to businesses?”

Tesco removed spikes at the front of a store in Regent Street in 2014 after a public outcry at the attempt to stop rough sleepers from bedding down in its doorway.

A council report on the rise of rough sleeping said: “The numbers of foreign nationals (FN) has fallen to 37 per cent of the total numbers seen. This compares to 49 per cent a year ago and is important because the vast majority of foreign national rough sleepers do not have recourse to public funds. The reasons for this reduction are difficult to pinpoint but are almost certainly influenced by ‘post Brexit’ messaging by central government.”

It added: “Street-based services recently responded to a number of encampments on the Regent’s Canal towpath, which included tents and ‘bashes’ – temporary structures. This type of activity is on the increase across the borough and has a very negative impact on our communities, making them less safe.”

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