Hackney's Public Space Protection Order
Hackney Council recently put in place a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) covering Hackney Downs, London Fields, Broadway Market, Mare Street and Regents Canal. Deputy Mayor, Cllr Sophie Linden, explains why it was brought in and why enforcement is always the last option.
Hackney Council is not setting out to criminalise homelessness, the welfare of every vulnerable person is of highest importance to us. We are trying to tackle persistent anti- social behaviour that is concentrated in specific areas and having an adverse effect on the lives of residents and visitors to the area. We are trying to help people off the streets and into housing and support. Our community wardens go out accompanied by specialist outreach workers, and rough sleepers are all offered support and a bed. Enforcement will always be a last resort and only used for those who continue to sleep rough and are part of the persistent anti-social behaviour that affects the safety and wellbeing of our residents.
Everyone should be able to enjoy and make use of the many public spaces that we have in our borough. Persistent street drinking and rough sleeping has been part of the anti-social behaviour in this area. People are urinating in the street, defecating in the churchyard, fighting and being abusive to members of public and spitting on passers-by, especially around the Narrow Way and St John’s Churchyard.
For months the Council and Police joint operations had been trying to deal with the concentration of persistent rough sleepers and ongoing anti-social behaviour in St. Johns Churchyard and the Narrow Way. Access to professional support and medical attention was always available, although unfortunately, despite our best efforts it was not always accepted. Ten emergency beds are available each night for up to seven days. Accommodation is also available for up to 28 days at No Second Night Out. Anyone sleeping rough will have their needs assessed, and if a bed is needed, it will be offered.
We decided to try the PSPO because we were confronted with a dilemma, residents, visitors and businesses are faced with anti-social behaviour that has become entrenched and it is having a very real impact on their day-today lives. By putting in this PSPO, we aren’t trying to criminalise the vulnerable we are trying to tackle anti-social behaviour and disorder in specific public places, help people off the streets and balance the needs of residents, businesses and the wider community.
Enforcement is the last option and will only ever be used when all other avenues have been exhausted. It can be the push needed to get help. Recently, a man living outside someone's kitchen window only moved and accepted help when there was the push of enforcement. He’s now in a hostel, receiving support and looking forward to the future and having a home he can call his own.
This isn’t something that we decided on alone, we thought long and hard about what we could do to tackle the problems in this part of the borough and the needs of the individuals involved. We spoke with local residents, businesses, community groups and other organisations. Businesses and local housing associations are also in support and we will continue to work with them all.
Alongside the Police our wardens and community safety officers will continue to go out on the streets with specialist staff from Thames Reach and our own outreach workers to try and encourage people who are sleeping rough to take up a place in a hostel or support from drug and alcohol misuse teams. We’ve also recently been awarded £330,000 from the DCLG and Mayor of London so that we can run a joint homeless project for rough sleepers in Hackney, Tower Hamlets and the City of London.
We hope, that through this PSPO we can deal with anti-social behaviour while trying to find the best way of ensuring that people get the support they need; because I want our public spaces to be free from anti-social behaviour and I don't want to leave people living on the streets where they are vulnerable.