Bournemouth, Poole And Christchurch Council has been targeting our local community of homeless and rough sleeping community.
In January 2018, the council decided to install what they call “anti-homeless benches” around the town and in other public areas in an attempt to stop rough sleepers to sleep on them at night.
Then after an absolutely furious backlash from the general public, homeless and rough sleeping charities and organisations and other public officials, they decided to remove them one month later (February of the same year).
BPC Council said the following.
The council said it had made changes to “one or two benches in very specific locations in the town centre several months ago” following complaints from traders and the public.
“The complaints related to a number of the benches being unavailable to members of the public throughout the day due to people lying on them during the daytime,” a statement said.
“As a council, we need to maintain a careful balance between our responsibility to the wider public to ensure that amenities are available to them, and our duty of care to vulnerable members of our community, including people sleeping rough.”BPC Council Spokesman
Going further back, they also implemented the following “anti homeless” campaigns:
- In June 2016, the authority said it had bought one-way train tickets for rough sleepers to move them out the area, as part of a new £200,000 strategy using “assertive techniques and procedures”.
- In 2015, the council played music from Alvin and the Chipmunks and bagpipes to deter rough sleepers at Bournemouth coach station
- In January 1018, a rough sleepers sleeping bag was disposed of days before he was found dead in frozen weather
Now, Again It Continues…
Human Rights organisation Liberty has closed its challenge over the PSPO (public spaces protection order) after the council agreed to withdraw the most contentious of its clauses in September.
The move has been welcomed by Poole campaigner Sarah Ward, who brought the challenge. She said the order was “neither a legitimate nor fair” way to treat rough sleepers.
The now-abolished Poole council which amalgamated with two others to become Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council (BCP Council), introduced the PSPO in 2018 which it said would help tackle “issues of anti-social behaviour” in the town centre.
But the move drew strong criticism, particularly due to causes which prohibited obstructing doorways, leaving belongings unattended and “loitering” in a public place collecting money.
Powers provided under the PSPO had been used three times, with only one fine issued.
Ms Ward began the process of taking legal action against it after the order was adopted and, in October last year, filed a High Court claim supported by Liberty.
This was paused earlier this year when the previous Unity Alliance BCP Council administration launched a consultation over the order and in September its cabinet agreed to remove the contentious clauses, despite opposition from the then Conservative opposition.
Councillor Drew Mellor, whose opposition group took control of the council less than a month after the decision, said he would not reverse the decision.
In the wake of this, Ms Ward and Liberty have now agreed to close their High Court challenge.
“I’m pleased the council has seen sense and agreed to change this broken approach without us needing to go to through the time, heartache and expense of a final hearing,” Ms Ward said.
“Being homeless should not be treated as a crime and we can now focus on trying to provide the help and support people need.”
She said she hoped other local authorities using PSPOs would now follow in the footsteps of BCP Council.
Liberty lawyer Lara ten Caten said the removal of the clauses was “a victory for fairness, dignity and respect”.
“Being homeless should not be treated as a crime and we can now focus on trying to provide the help and support people need.”Ms Ward – Liberty
“If you’re rough sleeping or begging, that isn’t a lifestyle choice, that’s poverty,” she said. “Instead of addressing the complex issues underlying homelessness, too many councils have resorted to blunt powers to punish poverty and push poor people out of sight as they tried to do in 2015/16).”
She added that PSPOs were “ripe for abuse” and should be scrapped nationwide.
A current rough sleeper called James, 32, sleeping rough in Bournemouth town centre said the following when he and others have had to cope with these constant, unnecessary and added difficulties.
As a rough sleeper, we already face constant issues such as meeting our simple, daily necessities such as food and warmth. We constantly face being attacked or having our belongings stolen and we always feel downtrodden, we get daily verbal abuse, nasty comments, ignored and sometimes even physically assaulted too.
None of us chose to become homeless and live on the streets. We are human to and all we want is to be treated as such, and when organisations such as my council constantly picks on us because we ended up where we are, feels like we’re being ignored, not given the help and support we need and not welcomed within our local community’s s treated like outsiders.
Just like June 2016, when they offered us one way train tickets to get us out of our home town and out of their duty of care to become someone else’s problem felt like a kick in the gut.
We just wait to see what the next obstacle or added hardship they cause us to endure.James, 32, Rough Sleeper In Bournemouth Town Centre
What Drink ‘n’ Drugs Think…
We’re glad this ban has been lifted across BCP Councils area across Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole.
Our local homeless and rough sleeping communities already face a multitude of problems and they definitely don’t need any extra and unnecessary aggravation by the council that has a legal duty to care for these people who are at risk and vulnerable.
They already face daily hardships such as a lack of food, water, a safe place to sleep, warmth in the cold months, lack of social interaction, at risk of violence or theft and any dogs they may have also face the same problems.Drink ‘n’ Drugs Spokesman
Our local homeless and rough sleeping communities already face a multitude of problems as James said so eloquently, they definitely don’t need any extra and unnecessary aggravation by the council that has a legal duty and responsibility to help them, to care for these human beings that are classed as an at risk community.
Many charities, groups and organisations, including Drink ‘n’ Drugs are trying to actively help those afflicted by homelessness and rough sleeping in our local area. You then get unhelpful obstructions which councils believe save money and to satisfy those who complain.
However, actions like these then set back the progress that has been made by not only increasing the costs of correcting the situation to return them back to “ground zero” again, but then adds more pressure to those trying to help them.
With COVID-19 and Christmas quickly approaching, they also add extra pressure onto the support services who are trying to help all of those affected, on top of those burdens we carry the other 364 days of the year.
Just like James said, we wait to see what BCP Council or others will do next when it comes to the homeless and rough sleeping communities, which only add to their load which is already a heavy burden to cash strapped charities and voluntary groups, underfunded services, and overstretched agencies such as the NHS, mental health services and social services.
At the time of posting this article, BCP Council have not responded to our multiple requests for their opinions or comments about this issue.
However, Our Charities, Groups & Organisations Carry On Their Tireless Efforts To Help Others
However, not all are going down the same path. Luckily, Bournemouth has a health bus which provides care for the homeless and rough sleepers to access GP/Doctor care with ease.
The services we’re referring to is mentioned in the video below.
Are You Or Someone Else You Know Homeless Or Rough Sleeping In Bournemouth, Poole Or Christchurch?
You can find contact information on our help and support page here.
You can also contact Street Support Bournemouth, they work alongside other organisations to provide a holistic approach to help the homeless and rough sleepers across the BCP area. You can find their contact information on our help and support page or by clicking here.
We Want To Know What You Think?…
We want to know what you think, do you agree with the council, do you think they’ve been doing the right thing? Or do you feel that they are focusing on the cause of the issue rather than it’s treatment? Let us know your opinion by commenting on our blog, on our social media accounts, emailing us or by using the hashtag below…
Use Can Also Use The Hashtag: #BCPRoughSleeping
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