Housing

'Hostile architecture' appears outside hospital where rough sleepers' tents were destroyed

The spot where rough sleepers were removed and their tents destroyed in viral Camden video has now been replaced with “hostile architecture” according to frontline grassroots group Streets Kitchen

Rough sleepers' tents were removed and destroyed in Camden

Around 10 tents were removed in the November 10 incident. Fencing and red barriers has been erected in the tents' place. Image: Streets Kitchen

The grassroots outreach group who filmed a viral video of rough sleepers’ tents being destroyed in Camden have accused the hospital of placing “hostile architecture” in its place.

Streets Kitchen’s video showing refuse workers throwing rough sleepers’ tents into a bin lorry near the entrance to the University College London Hospital in Camden on 10 November sparked major uproar – and was shared more than 8,000 times on X, formerly known as Twitter.

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Workers at Streets Kitchen told Big Issue they replaced the tents and belongings of the people caught up in the incident before they also held a public meeting in Camden to discuss solutions to the issue.

It’s unlikely one of the proposed solutions was to install hostile architecture. But that’s what looks to have replaced tents in the spot where rough sleepers were staying before being moved on by Camden Council, the hospital and the police.

Streets Kitchen photos shared with Big Issue show railings and red-coloured fencing blocking off the spot.

Streets Kitchen said: “This rather obscene hostile architecture is currently being erected right now by the hospital where people tried to take refuge from the elements. How is this any better?”

A UCLH spokesperson said the decision was made to remove rough sleepers following “public health concerns”.

“There were 10 tents outside the University College Hospital Grafton Way Building, a specialist centre for cancer patients whose immune systems are compromised, which meant there were health and safety issues we felt we could not ignore, including an unauthorised entry into our hospital wards,” they said.

“UCLH is deeply committed to improving the health and wellbeing of homeless people and we provide a number of services for this vulnerable group. We do acknowledge the challenges, however, of balancing the welfare of homeless people around our sites with ensuring the safety of our patients and staff.”

The Met Police told The Big Issue the hospital’s security team requested the assistance of police to remove rough sleepers, who had been living in the spot for up to nine months, due to “concerns for patient welfare”.

People experiencing homelessness in the area were informed of the intention to clear the site earlier in the week before a dispersal order was issued under Section 35 of the Anti-Social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act.

A Met Police spokesperson added: “Police had also received reports of drug use and drug dealing, urination and defecation and of patients and staff being intimated or verbally abused by some of those begging and sleeping rough at the location.”

Camden Council apologised after an investigation uncovered “operational involvement” in the incident.

Councillor Adam Harrison, deputy leader of Camden Council, said: “What happened was unacceptable and doesn’t reflect the values we hold as a council.  We will make sure this is clear and understood at every level of the organisation.”

The incident reached the attention of London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who was asked about it at Mayor’s Question Time. He said he was “appalled” by the footage and that police were “looking into what happened to make sure it doesn’t happen again in our great city”.

The 10 November incident came just days after former home secretary Suella Braverman controversially attempted to crackdown on charities supporting rough sleepers with tents and described street homelessness as a “lifestyle choice”.

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