Bromley Council urged to consider legal action to tackle homelessness

PUBLISHED: 13:31 11 December 2019

A homeless man on the streets of London. Picture: PA.

A homeless man on the streets of London. Picture: PA.

PA Archive/PA Images

Bromley Council has been urged to consider legal action in a bid to address anti-social behaviour from rough sleepers in the borough.

Members were updated on the area's homeless situation as winter approaches at a meeting of the Safer Bromley Partnership on Thursday, December 5.

Calvin Pearson from the authority's housing division said eight rough sleepers were counted in the borough at the start of November - up from six in 2018 and five in 2017.

He said while the council and partnering authorities were continuing work to help homeless people get off the street, there remained a small number who "just do not wish to engage".

Continued lack of engagement had led to some social issues, including instances of homeless people defecating in streets around the borough.

It prompted Metropolitan Police Superintendent Colin Carswell to urge the council to take stronger action.

"We surely cant have an individual defecating in the street like that," he said, adding "there is an option of the local authority issuing a community protection notice…I'm a little bit bemused it's not happening".

A community protection notice (CPN) can be issued against a perpetrator of persistent antisocial behaviour. Failure to comply can lead to a fixed penalty notice, remedial action or a court order.

Supt Carswell said issuing notices would "force the individual into some form of legal process where they're ordered to get help".

"I'm not sure how it could not work because then that individual has to engage."

He said he was "not proposing to criminalise them, but we would get them in the court system where they could be ordered".

Committee member Lynn Sellwood said she looked at it from a "safeguarding angle".

"People who are living on the street are extremely vulnerable…the thought of someone living on the street dying this winter appalls me," she told the borough, saying she backed the council exercising its "inherent jurisdiction".

Her views were echoed by Sharon Baldwin, chair of the Bromley Safer Neighbourhood board.

"As an affluent borough, we don't have the same problem as inner-city London…we have to try something," she said.

"We can't keep sitting at meetings like this and say we're doing something and walk out there and keep seeing it."

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