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Poncho is back

September 26 2009
Tactics appear to be "more aggressive" than before, readers report The Pavement readers have reported that Operation Poncho, the systematic cleaning of areas where rough sleepers bed down between the hours of 1am and 5am, has resumed in the City of London. As of Monday, 3rd November, the City of London Corporation water bowser has returned to the streets on a nightly basis, and readers have reported the tactics appear to be "more aggressive" than before. But a spokesperson for the City of London Corporation (CLC) and Broadway, the charity contracted to reduce rough sleeping in this part of London - which has acknowledged its involvement in Operation Poncho as a means to engage with rough sleepers and encourage them indoors - said that the policy had not changed since the summer. "Street cleaning at night only takes place where there is a clear risk to public health, usually in 'hot-spot' areas where numbers of people sleeping rough congregate." The CLC added that although it was obliged to clean "alleys and pavements which are often littered with food, drink bottles and human faeces", cleaning only occurred "where there is a clear public health risk." Readers have claimed Operation Poncho exists simply to disturb their sleep, that the water in the bowser is cold and without detergent (so ineffective for cleaning), and that it is a bullying tactic to move them into the hostel system. In response to these allegations, the spokesperson explained that "hotspot" areas were cleaned only after repeated advance warnings and sensitive, direct contact with outreach workers. "The cleansing is partnered with rough sleepers being encouraged to move indoors because no human being wants anybody else to live sleeping rough and it is up to all of us, working together, to find ways to re-connect these people to society so they can begin to live with more dignity and hope, and away from the dangerous and unhealthy streets. "The City of London Corporation, Broadway and the City of London Police are aiming to provide positive alternative approaches to living on the street. "Officers of all agencies have and continue to conduct themselves in an exemplary fashion and there is no evidence of anything to the contrary." Long-term rough sleepers maintain it is their right to live their lives as they wish to do so and told The Pavement they would continue to ignore the pressure to move on.