Swindon Borough Council Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPO's) - PSPO's in operation & City Centre variation consultation..read here.
We have been asked to sign a petetion requesting that Swindon Council remove the PSPO (Public Spaces Protection Order) that has been said unfairly criminalises vulnerable homeless people in Swindon.
Petition/Situation Update from Change.org - 'It has been abused (the PSPO) and, worryingly, can be added to very quickly with limited public consultation. Homeless people in Swindon are being criminalised simply for being homeless. Many have been given Dispersal Orders and, more recently, have been threatened with injunctions. They also report harassment and even violence from the authorities.
On December the 15th, 2015, Swindon Council implemented the Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO). Section 3, which deals with begging, states that, 'Any person is prohibited from, at any time, placing himself in a position to receive alms (charity) for a continuing period.' The wording of this section is so ambiguous that it is open to abuse and that has now been evidenced through the experiences of homeless people in Swindon. When questioned, Steven Kensington, head of the Housing Department in Swindon Council denied that the order would be used to make homelessness a crime in itself and was to stop ‘professional begging’. That has not been the case.
Swindon Council, through the police, has been issuing Dispersal Orders to homeless people. More recently, the police have been threatening injunctions. Homeless people who receive a Dispersal Order are banned from town and Old town for a period of 48 hours. If the Dispersal Order is breached then there is a fine of £100. Inability to pay leads to imprisonment. An injunction is a complete ban from town and Old Town and, if breached, leads to imprisonment of up to 5 years. So, what are the conditions to receive Dispersal Orders and injunctions? One way is to be in 'the begging position'. That means sitting down! Are homeless people supposed to stand all day? Injunctions have also been threatened for sleeping in public spaces.
Swindon People's Assembly and Swindon 38 Degrees conducted a survey of homeless people in Swindon. Roughly half of the respondents reported that they had been threatened with an injunction by the police. There were also many allegations of harassment and some of violence by the police. Council workers and other officials have been accused of taking away possessions that they know belong to homeless people, including food! This is building anger and resentment between homeless people and the authorities. It is also making it more difficult and uncomfortable to be homeless. That itself has repercussions for those with mental health problems and/or drug problems (that includes alcohol). Many are angry or despondent at a society that can allow this to happen. Many are distrustful and/or paranoid; that’s not surprising when learning of their experiences; abuse, violence, harassment, lack of care and empathy towards them… Amongst the perpetrators are supposed public servants. So it becomes clear why many of them have simply given up hope in what is often described as a catch 22 situation. For those with drug addictions, being homeless is often exacerbating their addictions, causing problems for themselves and others. Drugs like alcohol and heroin relieve pain so it's understandable why that drug use will continue whilst people live in such desperate and difficult conditions.
If this petition is successful then we can help the council redirect its efforts and funds into finding positive solutions to the complexities of homelessness. Working with local and national groups, this can make changes for the benefit of homeless people and local communities. One idea is to emulate an approach adopted in Bristol that provides education, skills and somewhere to live through regeneration. You can read about it here:
How much better is that course of action compared to banishing homeless people or locking them up? This could happen in Swindon but, for the time being, the council is moving in the opposite direction. Let’s turn it around, please sign and share!'.