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Islington Council applies to ban rough sleeping and begging under Stroud Green Road bridge in Finsbury Park

PUBLISHED: 09:06 12 February 2019 | UPDATED: 09:58 13 February 2019

A rough sleeper under the bridge on Stroud Green Road. Photo: Polly Hancock

A rough sleeper under the bridge on Stroud Green Road. Photo: Polly Hancock

Archant

Islington Council is going to the High Court in an attempt to ban rough sleeping and begging under the Stroud Green Road bridge in Finsbury Park, the Gazette can reveal.

A bedroom set up in Stroud Green Road. Picture: Loretta ThomasA bedroom set up in Stroud Green Road. Picture: Loretta Thomas

The town hall says the measure will help “encourage people to engage with the support being offered to them, whilst also addressing the issues in the area.”

But grassroots outreach group Streets Kitchen, which this week opened a solidarity shelter in Hornsey Road and has worked with the council to support the people under the bridge, said the idea was “obscene and unworkable”.

In its application for an “area based injunction”, the council says there are “several people” regularly found in the area who are “extremely vulnerable and seriously at risk”.

It states that all of these people either have accommodation or have repeatedly been offered help, but return to the area to use drugs. The council, which has consulted police about the injunction, says they are now in danger and are being targeted by drug dealers, and that one person has already stabbed.

Possessions under the Stroud Green Road bridge. Picture: Loretta ThomasPossessions under the Stroud Green Road bridge. Picture: Loretta Thomas

Locals have also reported increasing levels of “theft, intimidation, aggressive begging and other anti-social behaviour” in the area.

Over the last two years the council has housed 34 people who were rough sleeping, mostly under the bridge. Jeremy Corbyn commented on the situation last year, saying homelessness in Finsbury Park was the worst he’d seen in almost 50 years living there. David Lammy, whose constituency is on the other side of the road, has also spoken out about it.

Thousands of people walk under the bridge every day on their way to and from Finsbury Park station, and have done since the Wells Terrace exit at the back of the station closed in July 2016.

It was then that more beggars and rough sleepers began to arrive in the area, setting up shelters resembling bedrooms.

Beds under Stroud Green Road bridge. Picture: Loretta ThomasBeds under Stroud Green Road bridge. Picture: Loretta Thomas

The council says these are unsafe both for them and others as the urine and faeces is extremely unsanitary and they bring a “significant public health risk”. One man recently survived a fire in his shelter, which burnt down while he was inside.

The injunction would prevent anyone from “rough sleeping, begging or other anti-social behaviour” under the bridge.

The application states: “This measure will help us to encourage people to engage with the support that is being offered to them, whilst also addressing the issues in the area under the bridge.

“We are taking action in the interests of the welfare of these very vulnerable individuals to keep them safe from further threats as well as from cold weather. We have an obligation to protect the residents and businesses in the area from these risks too.”

Islington’s housing chief Cllr Diarmaid Ward said: “Rough sleeping is a complex issue, one that the council has been working extremely hard to address through the channels that are available to us.

“Our outreach teams and partner agencies visit Stroud Green Road very frequently to offer support and help into accommodation, and we have had a good degree of success with this.

“Unfortunately, we now have a number of very vulnerable people bedding down under the bridge who are very much at risk. Most of them do have accommodation elsewhere or have been repeatedly offered accommodation, but they are being drawn back to Stroud Green Road because of substance abuse and they are being targeted because of this. We have also seen, and had a large number of concerned residents telling us about the very unhygienic conditions and anti-social behaviour happening under the bridge.

“This is not a decision we have made lightly. We’re acting in response to serious concerns after careful consultation with our partner agencies and police, and this is only one of many strategies we’re using to help people rebuild their lives.

“The bottom line is that we want to help everyone into safe and secure homes. Our outreach team work with lots of brilliant partner agencies in the borough to try and get absolutely everyone the support that they need. If you need help or know someone who needs help, please get in contact with us.”

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