Homeless are safer off the streets

S treet homelessness is an issue facing virtually every town and city across the country, and here in Peterborough we are working hard to address this.

Saturday, 19th January 2019, 4:00 pm
Updated Thursday, 7th February 2019, 5:54 pm
Homeless issues

I’m sure you’ll agree that everyone has the right to a home, to have hope and to feel part of a community, and that’s why last year we helped launch ‘Safer Off The Streets’, a campaign which works with rough sleepers to help them turn their lives around, writes Rob Hill, assistant director for Community Safety at Peterborough City Council.

With charities and organisations across the city we’ve created a network of support to help people who are sleeping rough, but also to look at ways to support people so they don’t end up on the streets in the first place.

The campaign has been a big success, raising in the region of £4,000 in less than four months. Please continue supporting it by making donations.

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I often get asked what the council can and can’t do in relation to rough sleeping, and begging for that matter.

I don’t want to bore you, but there are three legislative acts; the Vagrancy Act, the Public Space Protection Order Act (PSPOs) and the Anti Social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act.

The Vagrancy Act, which lists begging as a criminal offence, actually dates from Victorian times, and as a result is not commonly used these days.

What many councils, including ourselves, have done in recent times is introduce PSPOs in areas where issues such as anti-social behaviour are having a negative effect.

Whilst PSPOs are effective at raising awareness of and reducing certain problems, councils have been given guidance not to use them to enforce against rough sleepers.

Here in Peterborough, we feel it is far more effective to work with rough sleepers and offer them support to help find permanent solutions, rather than issue a fine which they may not be able to pay and may not deter them from an area.

Finally, the Anti Social behaviour Crime and Policing Act, can be used to grant an injunction, or for dispersal action. The difficulty is that it requires lots of background evidence gathering and as any final decision is made by a judge it can be costly.

That said, if we become aware of aggressive begging or anti-social behaviour, we will not hesitate to use this act and have done so. Only last year we obtained an injunction against a couple of rough sleepers in St Peter’s Arcade who had been aggressive towards passers-by.

I hope this helps shed some light on the legislation behind what is often a complex issue and explains the decisions we are taking.

In the meantime, we will continue to work to reduce rough sleeping in Peterborough and I will keep you updated on progress.

You may have seen that the weather over the next few weeks is forecast to get colder. There’s even been talk of a ‘Beast from the East 2’ by the end of the month, and while we don’t want to scaremonger, we are keen to remind motorists of the best ways to stay safe.

The most basic advice we can give is to make sure you lower your speed, especially when driving in the dark or in difficult weather conditions. But it is also vitally important to prepare your vehicle before heading out on any journey, especially lengthy ones.

The following tips will help ensure your vehicle can take on the worst winter can offer:

Keep a regular check on your oil levels; Make sure the windscreen wipers are in good working order; Keep water levels topped up; Make sure lights are clean and all bulbs including fog lights work; Check your tyre pressure; Ensure tyres have the legal amount of tread, it can take twice as long to stop when roads are wet, and up to 10 times longer in icy conditions; Ensure you have sufficient fuel for your journey before heading off.