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“News in Brief 124: Jan-Feb 2020

January 01 2020

Our monthly round-up of what‘s been happening...

Legal challenge

A new year, and new hope that the draconian Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) will be reformed, or even scrapped. Under the PSPO police can fine anybody found blocking doorways, asking for money or generally loitering. Arguing this unfairly targets homeless people, Sarah Ward, who lives in Poole, reached a fundraising target for legal costs in November, and will take Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole council to the High Court in 2020. The human rights group Liberty welcomed Ward’s action, with Lara ten Caten, a lawyer for the group, quoted in the Guardian saying: “PSPOs are blunt powers that are being systematically misused to criminalise homeless people across the country.”

  • Happened to you? Get help from Liberty advice line 0845 123 2307 or 020 3145 0461

Festive fallout

Last November, a report by the youth homelessness charity Centrepoint estimated that 22,250 young people in England would spend the festive period sleeping rough or sofa surfing. No place to stay: Experiences of youth homelessness warned that many 16 to 25-year-olds will find themselves sleeping rough over the winter and many more will be hidden homeless, reliant on sofa surfing to get a bed for the night. Centrepoint arrived at the estimate by analysing data provided by 248 local authorities in England.

Unsafe haven

Vulnerable homeless people in London are being duped by the Home Office as immigration enforcement ramps up deportation, finds the Guardian in October. It revealed that the Home Office was running sessions at safe havens intended to gather information on attendees, in the hope of removing those without valid immigration status. Homeless people attending the sessions are not told that the Home Office is involved. In fact, they are informed attendance could help regularise their immigration status. The Salvation Army, Sikh gurdwara and a Chinese community centre have been caught out offering their space to immigration enforcement.

Billions wasted

Councils continue to rely on emergency temporary accommodation for homeless people, that is routinely found unfit for purpose. In the 12 months to March 2019, councils in England spent £1.1 billion on B&Bs, hostels and other temporary shelter, representing a 78% rise in spending over the preceding five years. This tactless approach to tackling homelessness can place families in dangerous emergency B&Bs, which are of little benefit to anybody other than private landlords’ wallets. Polly Neate, chief executive of homeless charity Shelter, was quoted by the Independent saying the money had been “wasted”. 

You're banned

The city of sin – that’s Las Vegas – supposedly welcomes sinners and saints alike. Everybody’s welcome and anything goes, or so the marketing people say. As for people sleeping rough? No thanks. Las Vegas has banned homeless people from sleeping on the street. According to the Washington Post, the law is designed to help maintain the city’s image as an attractive tourist destination. 

Freezing change

Intense pressure on Glasgow’s homelessness services resulted in the Glasgow City Mission opening the doors to its Winter Shelter three days earlier than planned, writes Jack Hanington. Glasgow has only one mainstream winter shelter, run by Glasgow City Mission, on behalf of the council and other homelessness services. Following the city council’s transfer of funding to the Housing First plan, homelessness services lost £3 million of council funding, equivalent to 99 temporary beds. As November temperatures dropped to as low as -6C, the decision was taken to open the shelter on 28 November, offering emergency accommodation at the Lodging House Mission on 35 East Campbell Street until 31 March 2020.

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