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Thursday, March 23, 2017
Westminster Council threatens to fine Cathedral homeless
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¬†Homeless people sleeping in the Piazza outside Westminster Cathedral will face fines of up to £500, if tough new laws proposed by Westminster Council are passed. In a press statement issued on 26 September, Westminster set out plans to 'sweep the homeless off the streets' by fining anyone sleeping rough in the Piazza and other open spaces up to £500. An inability to pay court fines can result in a custodial sentence. The director of Social Services at Westminster, Julie Jones, said: "there is no need for people to sleep rough" and therefore the Council is proposing that "between the hours of 9.30pm and 7am, people will not be able to lie down and sleep in Westminster Cathedral Piazza or any of Westminster's newly designated open spaces." She said local residents felt threatened by the "aggressive begging and loutish behaviour of drunken and chemically intoxicated rough sleepers." A volunteer for the Passage homeless centre behind the Cathedral, run by the Daughters of Charity, expressed concern at the proposals yesterday. The Simon Community, a charity which has worked with London's street homeless for more than 40 years said they were 'alarmed' by the news last night. Philip Burke, chair of the Simon Community told ICN: "Westminster Council's statement demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of the issues related to homelessness. Simply providing a bed in a crowded hostel does not constitute providing a home or solving the deeper underlying problems associated with social exclusion. "Introducing a fine for those in need of somewhere to sleep amounts to punishing and criminalising some of the most vulnerable members of out society. "We are troubled that such a bylaw, should it be passed, would set a precedent for other councils across the UK to similarly disregard human rights. Describing the proposed byelaws as 'over-the-top' Burke said the Simon Community shared the concerns of local residents but believed another method of addressing the problem must be found which involved "working to help, rather than to punish the social excluded."
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