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Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

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Dispatch from Camden

December 01 2023

Notes from a meeting after the shocking viral video of homeless people having their tents and belongings destroyed. Words by the Pavement team

On a mid-November evening, representatives from Camden Council attended a meeting set up by Streets Kitchen and chaired by the Camden New Journal. The meeting took place after the disturbing video of people sleeping rough outside University College London Hospital (UCLH) having their tents and belongings crushed by contractors had gone viral on social media a week earlier. Some of those whose belongings were callously crushed were in attendance at the meeting, held at St Michael’s Church, Camden.

Planned before the incident, the aim of the evening was not to harangue Camden council for its handling of the situation. But it became a focus and attendees were keen to find ways to move forward and learn from the events of the previous week. Among the proposed ways to learn from the episode was to schedule regular meetings with community stakeholders, such as Streets Kitchen, and the council. There was also talk of improving Routes off the Streets, the council-funded outreach service commissioned to “end street homelessness”. 

Nobody representing Routes off the Streets or UCLH attended the meeting. Further, the council’s social housing stock and the number of empty houses sitting unused was spoken about at length.

Amid the hope, there was some despair. Council members attending the meeting were seemingly unaware of a pattern of similar incidents occurring in the borough over the past few years. Camden Council's chief executive assured the crowd that the previous week's horror was "so not Camden".

Except it was, and it has been innumerable times in the past.

Speaking to the Pavement, a Streets Kitchen spokesperson said: “Last week we merely captured on film what we [Streets Kitchen] witness on a regular basis. All those responsible must be made accountable and we must all ensure this never happens again anywhere.”

So, what happens next? No official announcements were made on the night, but there is a clear demand for these meetings to be held regularly, and for Camden council to begin cooperating with grassroots organisations on caring for people sleeping rough.