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City move-ons - more responses

May 22 2009
A reader asks for comment from the Corporation of London or Broadway on the targeting of rough sleepers Dear Sir,

With reference to my letter published in the September edition (Letters, Issue 34), the rumours circulating in the City about the relaunch of Operation Poncho proved to be correct and Operation Poncho has, indeed, restarted.

On the morning of Tuesday 16th September, I was awoken from my sleep at 2.30am by two police officers and subjected to the usual CRO check with which we are, by now, all familiar. I was asked to get up from the doorway where I sleep and remove my belongings. It was then doused with water by a Corporation of London road cleaner and left wet to deter me from bedding down again.

One of the two police officers informed me that they would be back again the next morning to repeat the operation. Sure enough, the following morning at 2.30am they were back. On the second visit, I queried the restart of Operation Poncho. One of the two officers replied that rough sleeping in the City was to be discouraged and that hostel places were available to accommodate all the rough sleepers within the City area.

I replied that I did not want a hostel placement and had no intentions of going into one. A fairly heated exchange followed. I reminded him that we lived in a free nation, and that the Poncho and its objectives were a threat to our human rights. I also informed him that I certainly would not succumb to the bullying tactics that were being deployed against me and other rough sleepers in the city. Although the Poncho teams visited only twice on the Tuesday and Wednesday following the reintroduction of the exercise, it seems strange to me that it applied only to the Fleet Street area of the City. Colleagues who sleep in various other locations were not affected at all.

Perhaps someone from the Corporation of London or the homeless charity Broadway would care to comment on this selective targeting of rough sleepers. Why should some be allowed to sleep undisturbed while others, including myself, are again being subjected to this corporate harassment exercise? Finally, when will the powers that prevail accept the fact that some street homeless people, for many reasons, do not want to be institutionalised in hostels? Surely while we still live in a democratic country we must maintain some degree of self-determination over our own destiny?

The Corporation of London’s ‘one size fits all’ mentality can only drive many rough sleepers underground and alienate them from both the police and outreach workers.

'Outsider'

Full name supplied

Dear Sir,

About a week ago, while sitting on a park bench at 9am, reading a newspaper and minding my own business, I was approached and questioned by a community support officer. He claimed he was talking to me only because the police were trying to “help the homeless get off the streets”, but it was obvious that despite his superficially friendly manner, he simply didn't like the look of me and was attempting to intimidate me into "moving on".

Two nights ago, while sleeping in a church doorway where I have slept many times before, I was awoken at about midnight and questioned, in quite an aggressive and confrontational manner, by two police officers who took my name and demanded to see ID. The following night, while sleeping at another church, where I have also slept many times and where I am well known to the staff, I was again awoken by police at about 1am; they questioned me and took my name.

They claimed they had received a complaint from the church about homeless people sleeping there. Not only does it [the church] not object to homeless people sleeping there, it actively attempts to help them. This was obviously nothing more than a thinly-disguised excuse by the police so harass rough sleepers.

Goodness knows, life on the street is difficult enough as it is without additionally having to endure petty, and illegal, harassment from bored police with nothing better to do.

Anon
Full name supplied
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