Someone sitting meekly on the pavement in Worthing with a hat or a cup in front of them, not asking for money, not causing an obstruction, not badgering the public for money in any way, can from now on be hauled up in court for breaching Public Space Protection Order 2 (PSPO2).
Conservative councillors voted unanimously at a meeting of Worthing Council on April 19, to criminalise the homeless, some of whom are forced to beg. PSPO2 is just one of three PSPO orders voted through on the same night. The others cover drinking in public and rough sleeping.
Conservative councillors argued that people sleeping on the streets are not homeless, but all they had to offer for this assumption was anecdote. They had no hard evidence to support these assertions. I attended the debate as a member of the public and was shocked by their hard hearts and lack of concern for those less fortunate.
The police don’t like the PSPOs. They say there is already sufficient legislation to deal with people causing a public nuisance, acting aggressively, and so on. So who is the council going to get to do their dirty work for them? So far it’s an unknown quantity, but one thing’s for certain. It will have to come out of our council tax.
The few voices urging caution and humanity during the debate came from the Lib Dems and the single Green Party councillor. They proposed or supported amendments to make a distinction between aggressive begging and passive begging as described in paragraph one of this letter. Even such a moderate change was voted down.
These vicious measures will marginalise and criminalise some of the most unfortunate in our society. We can’t just sweep their problems under the carpet. They need to be addressed by funding and giving them access to the services they need, and, most of all, a home. All night shelters have now been closed, so where are the homeless supposed to stay?
Ms P B Fraser
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