Streets Kitchen: ‘Rough sleepers are dying – now is the time for radical action’

OPINION: Seize Oligarch property, say STREETS KITCHEN

Friday, 18th March — By Streets Kitchen


Streets Kitchen in Camden Town

WE at Streets Kitchen were disappointed, though not surprised, to read Cllr Nadia Shah’s response (New Journal, March 3) to the shocking increase in the number of people experiencing street homelessness in the borough.

Our experiences do not match up with the “official” numbers and the council’s portrayal of the situation.

As a group of volunteers, we go on outreach seven days a week to provide basic essentials and attempt to spread much-needed joy. Everyday we meet at least 70 people sleeping rough, in only a small area of the borough.

The council says they are successful in their efforts to end homelessness but we know: More rough sleepers died in Camden last year than in Manchester, Nottingham and Cardiff combined.

A Freedom of Information request by the Dying Homeless Project found that 16 people died in Camden hostels last year.
Camden had the largest increase of rough sleepers in the UK, with the figures showing 97 bedded down on the streets in Camden in 2021 – up from 42 in 2020.

Alongside those alarming statistics, human rights organisations Amnesty International UK and Liberty, and groups including the Homeless Task Force, have accused Camden Council and the Met of breaching rough sleepers’ basic human rights.

Among many others, the incidents included the hosing down of rough sleepers, illegal “notices to leave” repeatedly posted around the borough and belongings being taken away and/or damaged.

Despite this unacceptable reality, Camden Council keeps on regurgitating the same arguments, painting their actions and position as “professional” and “efficient”.
As those left on the streets testify, now is not the time for any self congratulations, it is time for reflection and action.

Lives are being lost needlessly, how many more deaths is enough for radical action?

We all appreciate that there is a national funding crisis and the government prioritises business over people, but let’s be very clear: homelessness is a political choice, and as we have witnessed in other boroughs that we operate in, with the right attitude, a little respect and solidarity, positive changes can be achieved.

There is hope: recently, we have started productive discussions with the commissioned homeless outreach service on how to best work collectively to save lives.
We have highlighted a few simple immediate solutions, which we urge Keir Starmer and the Council to consider:
• Show respect, solidarity and humanity
• Acknowledge the extent of the humanitarian crisis on our streets and be more vocal about the growing “homeless” numbers and their causes
• Move away from commissioned services and bring all services in house
• Seize the £165million of property owned by Russian Putin aligned Oligarchs
• Open up and use productively for the benefit of the local community the many empty buildings in the borough
• Work more closely with and recognise the value of the many grassroot groups who operate in Camden

All of us at Streets Kitchen have had enough and can not standby.

We encourage everyone who is able to join us and many other groups on March 31 at 6pm at Downing Street, where we will remember all those who have passed away before their time due to homelessness, of which far too many came from Camden.

Streets Kitcben is a group helping homeless people in north London

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