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Thursday, December 8, 2016
Homeless agencies condemn 'rough sleeper holiday' scheme
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¬†News that a Dutch travel company is planning to launch £300 a time 'rough sleeper holidays' in London, has been greeted with shock and disbelief by Catholic welfare agencies. Under the scheme, called: "Live Like a Tramp in Paris", Kamstra Travel in Amsterdam plans to drop 50 people in groups of ten around the capital and leave them, with a guide, to fend for themselves for four days. Each tourist will be given a sleeping bag and a choice of either a musical instrument or drawing equipment with which to try to earn their supper. On the last night they will be taken to a good hotel and treated to a slap-up meal. The idea is the brainchild of director Bart Ganssens, who also hopes to organise trips to Amsterdam, Prague and Paris. Commercial director Lodewyk Brondyk said: "The concept of these trips is to give people a taste of what life is really like on the streets of our European cities. We hope it could be a life-changing experience for them." Robina Rafferty, director of the Catholic Housing Aid Society told ICN: "Homelessness is a difficult and complex issue. Agencies such as ours have been working for years to raise public awareness and funds to help get people off the streets. To suggest to the public that some of those they see sleeping rough may actually be tourists, could seriously undermine our efforts. It could also be very risky for these tourists. Living on the streets is very dangerous. Homeless people don't choose to sleep rough. They are forced to through many circumstances, including poverty, long term alcohol and drug abuse and mental health problems which a large number of agencies are trying to tackle. This scheme sound incredibly irresponsible and I am shocked to hear about it." Echoing these views, Michael Ryan, director of the Cardinal Hume Centre for young homeless people in Westminster, said: "This idea seems totally distasteful, from all points of view. I am very shocked. Homelessness is a very serious issue and they are trivialising it, treating it as a game. No one chooses to live on the streets. A rough sleeper is fifteen times more likely to be attacked than any other member of the public and 35 times more likely to suffer injury. "If people are really interested in homeless people they could get involved in a centre such as ours as volunteers, work on a soup run or join a focus group." A Scotland Yard spokesman said: "Police officers work very closely with other agencies in offering help and encouragement to those without a roof over their heads. But we do act firmly with beggars who threaten passers-by and those who abuse the generosity of Londoners and visitors by pretending to be homeless. We have a duty to apply the law and the Vagrancy Act does provide the power of arrest. "It is clearly inadvisable for anyone to sleep rough in London if they have an alternative. The streets are a dangerous place with an ever-present risk of robbery, assault and if the case dictates, arrest. There is nothing in the least romantic about rough sleeping. The concept of 'slumming tourism' will offend ordinary Londoners, those who work hard to tackle the problem of homelessness and those who sleep on the streets. At best this is in bad taste. At the worst it could have dangerous consequences. Our advice is: don't do it." The Government's Rough Sleepers Unit pledged in 1998 to reduce the number of people sleeping on the streets by two thirds by 2002. They are well on target. The number of people sleeping rough in England has reduced from 1,850 in 1998 to 700 earlier this month. For more information about Catholic agencies working with the homeless, click on: CHAS, the Catholic Housing Aid Society or Cardinal Hume Centre.
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