Campaigners have expressed alarm at a proposal by Westminster Council to ban rough sleepers and the charities who care for them, from the streets around Victoria.
Westminster Council has opened a four week consultation on a new byelaw which will fine people in the Victoria area if they “lie down or sleep in any public place”, “deposit bedding” and distribute free food and drink.
This byelaw will affect the 1,600 people estimated to sleep rough in Westminster each year, many of whom bed down in the Victoria area. Voluntary groups hand out food in the Victoria area, especially at Howick Place behind the House of Fraser. These groups will be facing the possibility of moving or being fined for their charity if the ban goes ahead.
Alison Gelder, Director of churches' charity Housing Justice said: “While we completely understand the problems experienced by residents in this area, this byelaw, which is an attack on civil and religious freedoms, is a completely over the top response. It also cuts across the successful work that Housing Justice and others are doing to reduce both rough sleeping and the need for food distribution on the streets."
The consultation period is running until 25 March. The London Soup Run Forum, convened by Housing Justice will be releasing further information when it becomes available.
Westminster Council tried to ban soup runs across London in 2007, but following public outcry the proposal was not included in the London Bill.
Housing Justice is a national voice for Christian action in the field of housing and homelessness. They support night-shelters, drop-ins and hundreds of practical projects nationwide by providing advice and training for churches and other community groups who work with homeless people.
They work "by uniting Christians and churches of all denominations across the country to work for change. They embrace partnerships with people of all faiths (and none) who share their values of social justice and compassion."