Notices have been attached to piles of bags belonging to the homeless community in Oxford city centre, requiring the removal of “obstruction on any pavement […] that may constitute a hazard.”
Abandoned bags pose a hazard by blocking fire exits, according to Oxford’s Labour-run city council. The notices said prosecutions could follow if the bags were not removed.
Neo, a member of Oxford’s homeless community and a singer and songwriter said he had his possessions confiscated by the council and he now carries his possessions around in a trolley. Adding that: “Most of the stuff which was taken was stuff that the public donated… it’s a shame.”
Green Party councillor David Thomas said: “This move by the council is totally outrageous. There’s a perfectly good homeless hostel [Lucy Faithfull House] in the city centre that the council refuses to re-open, instead forcing men and women to sleep rough and keep their belongings safe the best way they can.”
Lucy Faithfull House shut in January 2016 after Oxfordshire County Council withdrew its annual £500,000 funding, after providing shelter to those with complex needs or substance misuse issues for 30 years.
Thomas continued: “This is not the first time the council has used anti-social legislation to intimidate the homeless, but threatening them with fines and a criminal record for having nowhere else to sleep is a new low.”
The fines come as another blow to Oxford’s homeless community. Two homeless shelters Simon House, located on Paradise Street in Oxford, and Julian Housing, based in Oxford and Abingdon, are set to be decommissioned by April 2018.
The closures follow a £1.5m funding cut by the county council for homelessness services despite the growing number of individuals sleeping rough in Oxford.