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Police pull down rough sleepers’ tents

'They are just doing this to make Camden look better - it’s not actually fixing anything'

13 October, 2017 — By William McLennan

Police and Camden Council staff remove two tents from the Grand Union Canal towpath

POLICE and Camden Council have dismantled camps used by rough sleepers across the borough as part of a controversial operation against “anti-social behaviour”.

Tents have been confiscated from at least four sites in recent weeks in what the authorities say is a last resort after attempts to engage with those living inside were turned down.

However, some of those who work with the homeless have criticised the intervention.

Jon Glackin, who helps run the Streets Kitchen group which supports homeless people, said: “It’s ridiculous. Why are police wasting time when people have just got the minimal amount of shelter? It’s somewhere for people to leave the little bits of belongings they have. And to take that away from them, that’s harsh. They are just doing this to make Camden look better. It’s not actually fixing anything.”

Mr Glackin said that Streets Kitchen regularly provides homeless people with tents, as well as food and other essentials from their stall in Camden Town. Police said that all action was taken in collaboration with the Safer Streets Team, a charity commissioned by the council to tackle rough sleeping.

A spokesman for Camden police said they “do not want to criminalise people for being homeless”, adding: “Our aim is to help the many vulnerable people who live on the streets by attempting engagement and offering diversion options as part of our partnership working agreement. Any enforcement action that is undertaken is only used when people refuse to engage and have refused diversion on at least two occasions.”

On Sunday a woman who had been sleeping in a tent was made to pack up and move on from a camp in Augustus Street after reports of “rough sleeper ASB” – or “anti-social behaviour”.

On Thursday last week two tents were removed fro the Grand Union Canal towpath, with the “occupants… offered accommodation”. A day earlier a tent was removed from the park next to Euston railway station, with a homeless man “dispersed” and “made to clean up mess”. At the end of September two tents were removed from North Gower Street in Euston, after complaints from local businesses and staff at University College Hospital.

Councillor Nadia Shah, cabinet member for safer communities at Camden Council, said: “The Safer Streets Team works with a wide range of partners to ensure that people sleeping rough are offered the support and services they need to move off the street and rebuild their lives. The partners also consider the use of enforcement options when services have been refused and there is a risk of harm to either the people sleeping rough or our communities.”

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