Westminster Council said that charitable soup runs were an impediment to their ‘humanitarian ambition’ to reduce rough sleeping to zero and put people in contact with services which will take them off the streets. In short, they believed criminalising soup runs will stop large numbers of homeless people gathering in the area.
No one sleeps rough for a free sandwich
Liberty, along with many other third sector sector organisations working in this area, believed the proposed byelaw was fundamentally flawed. No one sleeps rough for a free sandwich.
An independent study by the London School of Economics Housing consultancy group agreed. It concluded that rather than perpetuating a damaging street lifestyle soup runs actually provide a safety net for those who have slipped through the system. They were also found to provide a valuable form of support that homeless people – as well as those who are in supported accommodation – do not find elsewhere.
We urged Westminster Council to drop the proposed byelaws, which were an offence against common decency, common values and common sense.
One need only look to similarly ill-judged powers, such as the power to arrest the homeless under the Vagrancy Act or dispersal powers under antisocial behaviour legislation, to see that the approach is flawed: it targets at-risk individuals with criminal sanctions which will only make their problems harder to overcome, it fails to address the root causes of homelessness, and at best only displaces homeless individuals elsewhere.