Heartless, callous, and not what the British public expect from an organisation that is supposed to serve the public interest.
A report in the Ilford Recorder has told how police in Ilford swooped on homeless people in the area and took away (we say stole) sleeping bags and food parcels that had been donated by the public.
The homeless people were not being a nuisance to anyone, and were not sleeping on a street or other place where they would have caused an obstruction. They were making use of the shelter the former Ilford Baths (a public swimming pool that has been allowed to fall into disrepair by the local council) provided for the night.
During the police raid, everything the homeless people had – a few possessions, sleeping bags, and food – was thrown into police vehicles and taken away. In the Recorder article, some of the homeless describe how they tried to grab a few of their possessions and run away. Others described how stunned they were at the actions of the police – who flatly refused their pleas to at least keep the food they had been given.
In a typically authoritarian statement and government patsy statement, Ilford Chief Inspector John Fish told the Recorder “The public rely on police to reduce the negative impact of rough sleepers, this includes the need for us to assist in the removal of temporary structures, tents, and bedding from public spaces and other inappropriate locations.”
John Clifton, a Corp Officer of the Salvation Army branch which gave the sleeping bags to the homeless people told the Recorder “I’m shocked and disgusted. Why would you take the only form of shelter someone has from them? We have tried to find out why they were taken and if we can get them back.”
Homelessness is a problem of society and is something the local authorities choose to ignore rather than do something about. These homeless people were doing nothing more than finding shelter in a place where they would be safe for the night. They had not ‘set up camp’ in the abandoned building or caused any damage.
They were harming no one, and yet the local authority and the police colluded in stealing the few meagre possessions the people had to survive the inclement weather, and the little food they had to sustain themselves for a few days.
These people had not chosen to be homeless. One man described how he became homeless after the friend he was living with died, and the local council refused to help him.
No doubt the local council (which has been run by the Conservatives) manages to waste significant amounts of taxpayer’s money – as do many other councils and public authorities. Having a substantial building left to ruin is costing the taxpayer. Using the police to persecute homeless people is wasting taxpayer’s money. Money that would be better spent on providing a solution to the problem of homelessness instead of trying to sweep it under the carpet.
Those responsible for this callous act should be prosecuted – at the very least for theft.
The original Ilford Recorder article can be read here.
There is an interesting article with pictures about Ilford Baths and how they fell into disrepair here.