IslingtonTribune

The independent London newspaper

Crackdown leaves homeless people under Finsbury Park bridge without beds

Residents donate sleeping bags after bedding belonging to homeless people was thrown away by the council

09 February, 2018 — By Samantha Booth

Jason Foster was told he could not come back to the area for two days

HOMELESS people sleeping rough in near-freezing temperatures under a bridge in Finsbury Park had bedding thrown away by the council after police issued a two-day dispersal order.

Residents were left so “outraged” by the decision to clear away the items that they have raised nearly £500 and donated sleeping bags and camp beds to men and women living rough in Stroud Green Road.

Lucy Palmer-Hobbs, a television producer who walks under the bridge twice a day, said: “When I saw they didn’t have their beds I felt sad and a bit sick wondering what had happened to them.

“It took me a couple of days to get the courage to go and speak to them because I actually felt a bit ashamed.

“Not that I had any part in it, but ‘society’ has done this to them while we were still all fine and had our nice warm beds.

“When I heard what happened, I was outraged. I couldn’t believe it.”

Islington Neighbourhood Policing Team authorised a 48-hour dispersal order covering the busy road and adjoining areas, starting at 9am on January 26, when temperatures were as low as 2 degrees.

The police, who pre-warned those under the bridge, say the order was granted following “persistent complaints from residents about anti-social behaviour and drug use”. Islington Council then cleared away bedding and furniture.

One 27-year-old homeless man, who did not wish to be named, denied the anti-social behaviour had anything to do with the rough sleepers under the bridge.

“There is a group who aren’t homeless around here [acting that way] and it is nothing to do with us,” he told the Tribune.

“Police were down here in the morning saying it would be a dispersal order. I went off to have something to eat but when I got back about 20 minutes later, my bed was gone.

“We want to thank those who have helped us since.”

Katja Pesari, one of those who helped provide bedding

Jason Foster said he was the only person present when the order was enforced. He could not come back to the area for two days.

Bedding and mattresses were cleared from the spot in October, with the council saying it was for “safety reasons”.

Ms Palmer-Hobbs, 35, said she was “overwhelmed” by the response she had after posting on Facebook about what had happened last week.

After dropping off some bedding under the bridge, she then set up a fundraising page, which has hit £470, despite only having a £100 target.

Ms Palmer-Hobbs is now considering ways of using the money to help the homeless.

The council said that at least 11 people who were rough-sleeping in the area had been housed in the last three months. It is continuing to work with homeless people as well as specialist charities.

Islington housing chief Councillor Diarmaid Ward said: “For many months we have been working hard with specialist agencies and charities to help rough sleepers in Stroud Green Road.

“Rough sleepers are some of the most vulnerable people in our society and many have complex needs.

“We will always offer the support they need to leave the streets behind and build a better life – even if this is initially refused.

“Our policy on items left in the street is very clear. We do not remove any personal possessions, and this includes sleeping bags and bedding, unless they have clearly been abandoned.

“Last week, following the police dispersal order, we removed discarded bedding and other furniture from under the bridge, for safety reasons and to enable us to clean the path.

“We do not take these decisions lightly and recognise the often extremely difficult situations the people sleeping here are facing. If residents see someone sleeping rough, I would urge them to let us know via streetlink.org.uk or on 0300 500 0914.”

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