Protest by homeless against ‘policing public space’ in Brighton and Hove

The campaigners' camp at St Peter's Church SUS-170604-093422001
The campaigners' camp at St Peter's Church SUS-170604-093422001

A group of homeless people have staged a campaign near to St Peter’s Church to rally against Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs) in the city.

Campaigners have built a makeshift camp to sleep in the conspicuous public space and will be bringing a petition of over 2,000 signatures before Brighton and Hove City Council tonight (April 6) for debate.

Tha camp close to St Peter's Church SUS-170604-093436001

Tha camp close to St Peter's Church SUS-170604-093436001

“The PSPOs are breaking human rights,” said campaigner Gary Birdsall.

PSPOs came into effect in 12 areas on January 1 this year, including Preston Park, Wild Park and the Seafront. The PSPOs, which began to be enforced from April 1, cover anti-social activities in the areas including people living in vehicles and tents, driving on the grass, defecating, lighting fires and fly-tipping.

Homeless people found to be sleeping in these areas could face an on the spot fine of up to £100 which if unpaid could increase to £1,000 and even prosecution.

“Homeless people cannot afford to pay. They are making it a criminal offence not to have an address,” said Mr Birdsall.

If the council do not overturn the PSPOs, Mr Birdsall said the group would continue to stay outside the church, which does not fall under a PSPO, and they would have to be evicted.

PSPOs were brought in nationally in 2014 to tackle anti-social behaviour and target trouble hot-spots.

“People say the homeless drink and take drugs and they don’t want to see that but these people drink so they can sleep,” said campaigner Dean Bonnie.

The campaigners have also raised concerns for Romany Gypsy and Irish Traveller communities, and are calling for the council to tackle the lack of affordable housing and site provision for travellers rather than ‘shifting the problem’. “The vulnerable people are not being looked after in the city,” said Mr Bonnie.

Government figures released in January 2017 said that Brighton approximately had 144 rough sleepers, the second highest homeless population in the country after Westminster.

When PSPOs were first introduced earlier this year, Councillor Gill Mitchell, chair of the city’s environment committee, said: “We have wonderful parks and open spaces and the PSPOs will help us ensure everyone’s enjoyment of them is not spoilt by a minority. We understand the frustration and upset caused by nuisance, anti-social behaviour environmental damage in our open spaces, and believe Public Space Protection Orders are a useful addition to the work we already do to keep parks clean and safe.”