Council apologises for threat to rough sleeper

Homeless man was accused of trespassing and given directions to local campsite, reports James Cracknell

Homelessness notice

The letter handed to a homeless man who had been sleeping on council land

Waltham Forest Council has apologised to a rough sleeper after issuing him with a threatening notice.

The letter ordered the homeless man to: “Please vacate and remove your possessions immediately, otherwise they will be removed by the council.”

It stated that the man was “trespassing on council land” and included an address for a campsite in Chingford, as well as the contact details of the council’s housing service.

The council later withdrew the notice, issued by one of its anti-social behaviour officers in February, and apologised to the person concerned.

Deputy leader Clyde Loakes said: “We would like to apologise to the individual to which this letter is addressed and our officers will be in contact with him to do so in person.

“This letter will not be used again and a full and immediate review will now be undertaken into how this came about.

“Despite the massive government cuts to funding to support the homeless, Waltham Forest, like many London boroughs, continues to fund a range of measures and interventions to support vulnerable homeless people, including working with Street Link which connect homeless people to vital support services.

“We also refer homeless people to the charity St Mungo’s and work with local emergency accommodation providers like the YMCA and Branches, a Waltham Forest faith group who provide a winter night shelter.

“Unfortunately in this case these services and support have been refused.”

Waltham Forest has one of the highest rates of homelessness in London. The council itself recorded 44 rough sleepers in the borough last year, the sixth highest number counted by any local authority in the capital.

The Echo contacted Homeless Link, the charity which runs the Street Link service designed to help protect rough sleepers, regarding the notice issued by the council. A spokesperson said: “We believe that such an approach is neither compassionate nor helpful, as it does nothing to solve the root causes of homelessness or other complex support needs.”

There were 216 families in Waltham Forest accepted as ‘homeless and in priority need’ as of mid-2017. According to the latest figures compiled by housing charity Shelter, only Hackney and Newham boroughs had more, with 247 and 370 respectively. It was also calculated that Waltham Forest had 2,307 families living in temporary accommodation in total, the ninth highest figure for a London borough.

Last month the council announced it would be buying 400 homes specifically for families in temporary accommodation as part of a 40-year ‘joint venture’ deal with social care provider Mears Group. Although the cost of buying the homes is estimated at £88m, the council predicts it will save nearly £1m per year on the cost of providing short-term temporary housing at places such as bed and breakfast (B&B) accommodation.