Housing

Rough sleepers left 'scared and disgusted' after homeless tents destroyed near London hospital

Streets Kitchen’s video showing rough sleepers’ tents being destroyed went viral. The grassroots outreach group tells The Big Issue the incident has led to ‘fear and disgust’ on the streets

rough sleepers tents being destroyed Camden

Footage of the tents being destroyed in Camden has caused outrage on social media. Image: Streets Kitchen

The frontline workers behind a viral video showing rough sleepers’ tents being destroyed in Camden, North London, have accused officials of “dropping the ball legally, morally and publicly” – and vowed to continue supporting people experiencing homelessness with tents.

Grassroots outreach group Streets Kitchen’s video, showing tents being destroyed near the entrance to the University College London Hospitals (UCLH) in the London borough, went viral on Friday (November 10).

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The footage, which came just days after Suella Braverman’s attempt to clamp down on charities supporting rough sleepers with tents, was shared more than 8,000 times on X, formerly on Twitter.

It also saw more than £10,000 donated to Streets Kitchen, which has replaced the tents and belongings of the people caught up in the incident and purchased more than 50 tents to support others who need shelter on the streets.

Streets Kitchen is also set to host a public meeting on Thursday (16 November) to discuss solutions to what they are calling a crisis in the London borough.

“There was no safeguarding in place, there was no representation from homelessness services,” said Jon Glackin, Streets Kitchen founder. “There should be representation from the council to advise these people, none of that existed. They dropped the ball, legally, morally, publicly. That was the biggest problem, this can’t go on.

“It’s really a constructive community response. We’ve all been involved in Camden for so many years and there’s a problem here, it can be resolved. I think it definitely does involve working better with the local community. There are better ways. There are lots of good people in Camden who want to do something.

“It’s wonderful all this outrage but it is important to channel it in the right direction.”

Camden rough sleepers
Streets Kitchen volunteers replaced the destroyed tents on Saturday morning. Image: Streets Kitchen

Hospital bosses, working with the Met Police, ordered the removal of around 10 tents on the grounds of the hospital near the entry to its Grafton Way building on 10 November.

A UCLH spokesperson said the decision was made to remove rough sleepers following “public health concerns”. They added the hospital is “deeply committed to improving the health and wellbeing of homeless people”.

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.

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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.”

The dispersal order gave rough sleepers just 90 minutes to pack up and leave the area. One man who remained in the area was arrested.

His personal belongings and tent were not destroyed, police insisted.

Pat Callaghan, acting leader of Camden Council, ordered an “urgent investigation” into the incident on Friday.

Initial investigations have revealed the council did have “operational involvement” in the incident.

Camden rough sleepers
The area where rough sleepers were evicted was fenced off on Saturday morning. Image: Streets Kitchen

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.

“While this dispersal order was applied for by University College Hospital London and enforced by the police, we acknowledge that waste collection services were arranged through the council and our rough sleeping support services were engaged to support people affected.

“We are determined to make improvements to how rough sleepers are supported in the borough.”

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The day after the incident, Streets Kitchen returned to the streets and shared 137 breakfasts, which volunteer Elodie Berland told The Big Issue was “on another level” in terms of numbers.

She said the incident had a big impact on the people experiencing homelessness the group support and the incident can be a flashpoint that leads to change.

“All the guys had heard about it, from other friends or otherwise, it was just a really weird vibe,” said Berland.

“Everyone was just scared and disgusted and worried but it was also really good to have those discussions where there is a massive reaction to it. It’s nice to have some hope and to discuss some solutions.

“It’s having a voice. That was the beautiful thing about the reaction and I think that was really powerful. It just feels like it’s been made visible and that’s quite something in itself.”

Streets Kitchen’s public meeting will be held at St Michael’s Church in Camden at 6pm on Thursday 16 November

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