Homeless still on London streets despite ‘sub human’ policy of water spraying

By staff writers
April 7, 2009

More than 200 people are still sleeping on the streets of central London despite policies to stop them bedding down which have included spraying them with water.

In the early hours of Saturday 4th April the Simon Community carried out its twice yearly headcount of people sleeping rough in Central London.

The count was carried out in the eight Inner London boroughs of Westminster, City, Southwark, Camden, Lambeth, Tower Hamlets, Kensington and Chelsea and Islington.

The last count occurred in Nov 2008 when 263 people were counted sleeping rough in the same areas.

Although carried out in the same way as official counts undertaken by government departments, the Simon Community’s findings are consistently higher than those officially released.

The Simon Community’s tally consists only of those visiblle at the time of counting and does not include those who sleep in parks, disused buildings or other places not accessible to those doing the count.

Those working with rough sleepers say that the figures have also been affected by the high level of police activity in Camden, Westminster and the City in recent months, such as 'Operation Poncho' which is intended to move rough sleepers on to other areas.

Westminster Council has faced accusations from churches and others that it is using jet sprays to wash rough sleepers, and prevent them bedding down.

Westminster is one of the few local authorities to use the deterrent designed to stop rough sleeping. Campaigners suggest the policy will become more vigorous in the run up to the London Olympics.

The Rev Simon Perry, of Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church, is amongst those who have condemned the policy as "sub-human”.
Alistair Murray, regions coordinator at Housing Justice has called it ‘barbaric’ and suggested it will be counter-productive and drive people further away from services.

Campaigners say that the numbers reflect the fact that there is still inadequate provision for rough sleepers despite government protestations to the contrary. In addition, the lack of any safety net for arrivals from the newer EU countries has swelled the number of street homeless, as they have no access to government funding and are therefore trapped in a cycle of homelessness and poverty.

The Simon Community is an independent homelessness charity, founded in 1963 by Anton Wallich-Clifford. Its principles, that of treating all equally regardless of circumstances, remain unchanged, and it continues to live and work with London's street homeless.

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.