Tag Archives: soup runs

Westminster Council Plot Homelessness Strategy Based On Enforcement

HomelessAgainst a backdrop of soaring street homelessness, the London Borough of Westminster is planning a policy of enforcement to force those with nowhere to go but the streets out of the borough.

The Tory run flagship council have published a consultation ‘Rough Sleeping Strategy’ in which they reveal the shocking fact that 1500 new rough sleepers arrived in Westminster in the financial year 2011/12.

This number is only likely to rise as the cuts to housing benefits take effect and huge swathes of London become unaffordable for those on low incomes.  Westminster Council’s answer to this is not to challenge the vicious cuts or to invest in more housing, but to send the message that “rough sleeping on the streets of Westminster is, quite simply, not an option”.

It is unclear at this stage whether the council will attempt to resurrect plans to ban rough sleeping in the borough, along with soup runs which they claim encourage people to stay on the streets.  Two years ago the council tried to do exactly this – with the shameful connivance of some homelessness charities –  until a storm of protest forced them to back down.  This wasn’t enough for the poverty pimps at Thamesreach and other large homelessness charities who are still lobbying against soup runs in central London.

Those same charities will be interested to learn that Westminster are to replace their dogged loyalty by introducing the same kind of payment by results contracts that have caused such expensive chaos for the floundering Work Programme.

The borough also intends to make more use of volunteers, quite possibly replacing paid support staff with unpaid workers.  Homelessness charities like The Salvation Army, who have been so supportive of workfare, may yet see their staff laid off and replaced with unemployed people forced to work for free.

On the question of the future of soup runs in Westminster, the borough’s  strategy is vague, although one of the stated key priorities is to: “Reduce the number of reasons for rough sleepers to come to, or remain on, the streets of Westminster”.

The Council are clear in their intentions for those who arrive in the borough and are unable to secure a roof over their heads.  In a move reminiscent of medieval laws aimed at stopping vagrancy, Westminster insist that when “workers are dealing with individuals new to the streets, the message will be one of reconnection to their home community”.

This would seem to apply to both UK born street homeless people and those from Eastern Europe in a policy that can roughly be summarised as ‘send ’em back’.

With no new legislation or bye-laws being openly proposed by Westminster Council (and it is early days)  it is unclear how exactly they plan to make one of the richest areas of the world a no go area for the destitute.

The final section in the document on enforcement gives a hint of their plans.  As well as a crack down on beggars, the council is planning to crack down on “unacceptable behaviour associated with rough sleeping”.

This includes, according to the council, drug use, litter and street drinking.  Rough sleeping ‘hot spots’ in the borough, where people sleep in groups for safety, will be targeted.  It seems that Westminster’s approach is likely to be one of harassment rather than direct enforcement, with council busy-bodies, volunteers and police ganging up to drive homeless people from the borough.  A recent raid on rough sleepers in Ilford, in which sleeping bags and food were seized by police, gives a chilling example of how this enforcement may look in practice.

The raft of cuts to housing benefits could mean unprecedented homelessness in the UK.  As London authorities know only too well, homeless people often flock to city centres for the scant resources that might be available.  Whilst this strategy leaves as many questions as it does answers, it is clear that those who find themselves on the streets of  central London are to face a desperate time at the hands of Westminster Council.

Read the Westminster Draft Rough Sleeping Strategy (PDF)

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The Shame of Poverty Pimp Jeremy Swain

Homeless charity Thames Reach’s supremo Jeremy Swain has shown that with friends like him homeless people really don’t need enemies.  By supporting Westminster Council’s draconian bid to ban people from giving food to homeless people Swain has revealed the nasty side of some within the homeless industry.

Leading poverty pimp Swain has concerns that not toadying up to the Tory run council might affect the huge salary funding his organisation receives from them.  On twitter yesterday he claimed that soup runs were ‘Disconnected,ineffectual’ and only offer ‘tea and sympathy’ … and soup presumably.

Swain believes that any street based services not run by Thames Reach themselves may affect his salary cause life on the street to become too easy.  He complains that soup runs and other smaller charities rarely refer the people who use them to other services such as night shelters and hostels.  Swain knows this is because most of those services are run by Thames Reach and other homeless industry monoliths like them and they do not offer referral rights to anyone outside their club.  Swain also knows that many hostels charge huge rents (usually at cost to the tax payer), offer poor standards of accommodation and in the worst cases are dangerous and more akin to open prisons than a real alternative to life on the street.

Presumably Swain also realises that people handing out food, sleeping bags and sympathy keeps some people alive.    Still an outcome’s an outcome.  Death is well known as a tried and trusted mechanism to keep the street population down.

It’s not just free food that get’s Swain’s goat.  One of his greatest concerns is the price of strong lager.   We’d be inclined to agree, except Swain thinks it’s too cheap.  Good little homeless people aren’t supposed to drink and, instead of questioning why so many do with angels like Thames Reach to protect them,  Swain insists on making life that little bit more difficult.  Even Christmas spirit should offer no relent to this torment according to Swain and the gang.  Thames Reach released a statement urging people not to give to beggars this Christmas because they’ll only spend it all on booze or drugs, the bastards.  Instead the likes of Thames Reach and notorious charity muggers St Mungos (who regularly beg on the street themselves) insist that people give money to them so they can continue to maintain their salaries end street homelessness.

Strangely back in December Thames Reach advised people to buy homeless people food instead.  What a difference contract negotiations two months can make.  Now they want people fined for carrying out their advice.

Thames Reach have been ending street homelessness forever and fully intend to continue doing so.  Many executive salaries depend on it.  Meanwhile the number of homeless people is set to soar as a result of the Government’s benefit cuts and housing policies.  Some housing organisations such as Inside Housing and Shelter have rightly condemned the measures being proposed (even if they haven’t gone far enough).  Poverty pimps like Thames Reach and  St Mungos  have been conspicuous in their absence from the debate.  They would probably argue (behind closed doors) that they need to urgently preserve executive salaries budgets and as they are dependent on government and Local Authority funding they are unable to challenge government policy too vigorously.  Anyway Swain has described the very real threat of mass homelessness as ‘tosh’ and warned on twitter that people should not join the ‘bangwagon (sic) of the apocalyptic’.  If it looks like a tory and sounds like a tory …

This Government is set to devastate the lives of the very people these charities were established to help.  It’s time that the service users that keep these charities in business, and the front line staff currently facing redundancies, turn to their self-elected leaders like Swain and ask precisely whose side are you fucking on.