Ahead of Royal Wedding, UK Official Calls for Homeless People to Be Forcefully Removed
A controversial letter outlined suggestions for clearing the streets in the name of public safety.
As Britain’s newest royal couple prepares for their massive May 19 wedding, officials around Windsor Castle are urging local law enforcement to address “anti-social behaviour” by the area’s homeless population.
The wedding between Prince Harry of Wales and American actress Meghan Markle is set to take place in a chapel within Windsor Castle, where the event is expected to draw a large crowd. The New York Times reported that hotel rooms in the area began selling out immediately following the announcement.
In preparation for these crowds, the council leader for the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, Simon Dudley, released controversial letter directed to the commissioner of the Thames Police on the subject of homelessness in the surrounding area.
In it, Dudley asked for action to be taken to quell, “aggressive begging and intimidation in Windsor,” ostensibly carried out by the local homeless population.
“It is becoming increasingly concerning to see the quantities of bags and detritus that those begging are accumulating and leaving on our pavements,” Dudley wrote. “The whole situation also presents a beautiful town in a sadly unfavourable light.”
While the letter acknowledged the government’s view that homelessness is “completely unacceptable in a caring compassionate community,” and noted the existence of several programs established to support local homeless individuals, Dudley goes on to suggest the police might make use of two different criminal statutes to justify moving homeless from the area.
Almost immediately Dudley faced severe criticism for the language and tone of his letter, including from Prime Minister Theresa May, who represents the area in Parliament.
“I don’t agree with the comments that the leader of the council has made,” she told the Independent. “I think it is important that councils work hard to ensure that they are providing accommodation for those people who are homeless.”
Rick Henderson, the chief executive of London-based charity Homeless Link, wrote in an op-ed that homelessness was a structural issue, not an “exploitation of residents and tourists,” as Dudley insisted in his letter. Henderson noted that temporary housing needs and “rough sleeping” had increased dramatically since 2010 after policy changes and budget cuts to social support services.
“Criminalising vulnerable people who are homeless or sleeping rough does nothing to tackle the root causes of the problem,” Henderson said. “These people need a different kind of help that gets to the root causes of their behaviour.”
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Henderson concluded his thoughts on Dudley’s letter by suggesting the royal wedding could provide a much-needed spark in the battle to tackle to address homelessness in Britain.
“Dealing with the underlying causes of homelessness is the most effective course of action, it just might take a little longer than the four months until May,” he said.