This is the moment rough sleepers appeared to be hosed down by a street cleaner while lying in bedding in Camden. Image: Elodie Berland
A video showing a street cleaner firing water at rough sleepers while an onlooker laughs has incited a furious response from homelessness campaigners.
Elodie Berland, who volunteers at homelessness campaign group Streets Kitchen, filmed the 30-second clip at Warren Street in Camden shortly after 8:30am on Monday morning.
In it, a worker can be seen aiming a jet washer at rough sleepers sitting in bedding on the street.
Berland was left furious by the scenes, which she says are becoming increasingly common on London’s streets, and confronted the workers responsible.
“I’m very, very angry. I always keep an eye on the community staying there because people are clearly not welcome there,” she told The Big Issue.
“We have seen water on the ground in the morning there when we do outreach but this time I saw the guy sweeping and watering and I just couldn’t believe that they were laughing as well.
“You can’t treat people like this. The guy cleaning the streets needs his job like everyone else. But we as humans have to do jobs and we still don’t have to go down to that level.
“It feels like the narrative at the moment everywhere is that it is fine to behave like this and it’s not – it’s disgusting.”
Councillor Nadia Shah, Camden Council cabinet member for safer communities, said: “We were shocked and appalled at the footage. We expect people experiencing homelessness to be treated with respect by everyone in Camden, not dehumanised in this way.
“As soon as this footage was published, we urgently looked into who was responsible and made clear in discussions with the company that this was unacceptable. Spaces have confirmed that they are speaking to their contractors as a priority to ensure this doesn’t happen again.
“We thank Streets Kitchen for bringing this incident to our attention and encourage everyone to report incidents of poor treatment of people who are homeless in Camden to us.”
Spaces, the workspace company located where the incident took place, said: “People both inside and outside of our centres should be treated with respect at all times. We are looking into this as a priority with our contractors to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.”
However, the short clip has sparked fury on social media with homelessness campaigners and human rights activists slamming the incident and warning that rough sleepers are facing increased hostility.
In response to the latest video by its volunteer, Street Kitchen warned outreach workers “have been observing and documenting an ever-growing vicious hostile environment” in London.
The video also attracted anger from Matt Downie, director of policy and external affairs at homelessness charity Crisis. He tweeted: “What is this achieving, apart from dehumanising people? Awful.”
Meanwhile, fellow campaigners Museum of Homelessness, added: “WHERE is the humanity?! This has been going on for decades, can’t we evolve?!”
Jodie Beck, policy and campaigns officer at human rights lawyers Liberty, said: “The increasing hostility shown towards people experiencing homelessness across London is distressing to see. This cannot continue – private contractors need to be held accountable for how they treat people in the local community.”