Camden Council and University College London Hospitals (UCLH) were in the local and national media for all the wrong reasons over the weekend, with reports of council contractors, community presence officers, hospital security and the police evicting homeless people and throwing their tents into the back of a bin lorry.
The Camden New Journal’s Frankie Lister-Fell was in Huntley Street in the afternoon of Friday 10 November to report on the disgraceful actions.
“A week after the home secretary announced her desire to restrict the use of tents by rough sleepers, police officers, council community protection officers, hospital security staff and a team of Veolia workers descended on a camp of 11 tents outside UCLH,” she wrote.
“Heartbreaking to witness a coordinated operation between hospital security, police and Camden Council contractors descending on people who have nothing,” she wrote on social media.
The events unfolded in broad daylight with many people witnessing the operation. The homeless people were left with no shelter ahead of a night time temperature falling to around five degrees C.
Camden Council originally tried to deny they had anything to do with it.
“Camden has had no role in enforcing this eviction,” said a tweet from the council’s official account and reported by The Mirror.
But that tweet was later deleted as video and still footage uploaded by Streets Kitchen clearly showed that Camden Council’s own rubbish contractor and uniformed community presence officers — all with Camden logos — were part of the operation.
Routes Off The Streets, the organisation that Camden Council contracts to provide support for homeless people, was not present during the evictions.
Councillor Pat Callaghan, acting leader of Camden Council, later issued a statement saying: “We are deeply concerned to see these videos and I am ordering an urgent investigation into what happened.”
She went on to say: “I’m also concerned that our contracted waste operator has been engaged in this operation and I will be personally looking into why this has happened.”
But Callaghan made no comment about the involvement of the council’s community presence officers.
UCLH had initiated the evictions. “Following public health concerns, the police have helped to relocate (sic) some people sleeping outside the Grafton Way Building, a hospital treating immunocompromised patients,” said a hospital spokesperson.
However, a group representing immunocompromised patients hit back at UCLH to say: “Don’t use us to justify this abhorrent action!”
I look forward to reading the outcome of Callaghan’s investigation into her own council’s actions.
This is a council, remember, that didn’t even bother to count the number of people sleeping on its streets until a campaign by Fitzrovia News forced them to do it.
As for UCLH, it and its sibling UCLH Charity have form when it comes to evictions as we have reported many times.
“Rather than throwing away people’s homes, let’s find an answer in the community instead,” says CNJ reporter Frankie Lister-Fell.
“Please join us next Thursday for an informal meeting. Everyone is invited,” she says.
Camden has a homeless crisis, what can we do? 6pm, Thursday 16 November 2023 at St Michaels Church, Camden Road, London NW1 9LQ.
Streets Kitchen also has a winter appeal seeking funds to help homeless people this winter.