A video from grassroots homeless outreach group Streets Kitchen appearing to show the tents being destroyed on Huntley Street in Camden, North London, has been shared more than 3,000 times on X, formerly known as Twitter, at time of writing.
A member from the group can be heard crying and shouting: “Oh my God, this is disgusting” in the footage as workers throw tents into a bin lorry.
A member of Streets Kitchen told The Big Issue the group were aware of a dispersal order under Section 35 of the Anti-Social Behaviour Crime & Policing Act and that officials would attend the area to evict a group of rough sleepers on Friday (10 November).
The group claimed people living on the streets in the area were given 90 minutes to leave the area before their tents were destroyed.
The Metropolitan Police confirmed to The Big Issue that officers attended citing concerns over 10 tents and one person was arrested for failing to relocate from the area.
The incident happened near to the University College London Hospital. A spokesperson for the hospital said action was taken due to “public health concerns”.
Camden Council’s acting leader Pat Callaghan has ordered an “urgent investigation” into the incident.
“One of the tents was empty because the guy was in the bathroom washing his hands and they damaged the tent moving it,” said the Streets Kitchen member.
“They handcuffed one of the guys who didn’t want to give his information. Some of the guys have already gone so they had to leave their tents and they don’t know where they’re going, they just had to choose to go because they can’t take the risk.
“Others want to stay and they want to challenge it.”
A Met Police spokesperson said: “Met officers worked with University College London Hospital and other partners in response to concerns about approximately ten tents near the entrance to the hospital in Huntley Street, NW1.
“One person was arrested for breach of a S35 dispersal order having refused to comply with the police direction to relocate from the area. He has been taken into police custody.
“Appropriate support is being provided by partner organisations to those affected.”
A University College London Hospital (UCLH) spokesperson said: “Following public health concerns, the police have helped to relocate some people sleeping outside the Grafton Way Building, a hospital treating immunocompromised patients.
“UCLH is deeply committed to improving the health and wellbeing of homeless people and we provide a number of services for this vulnerable group. This includes our homeless healthcare team and our mobile Find and Treat clinic that tests and treats thousands of homeless patients a year for serious illness, helping prevent onward infection, improving public health and providing routes to referral for accommodation.”
Councillor Callaghan, acting leader of Camden Council, said: “We are deeply concerned to see these videos and I am ordering an urgent investigation into what happened.
“Nothing is more important to us than the welfare, safety, and rights of every person who is experiencing homelessness. Our outreach team, Routes off the Streets, have been working hard to offer support to every person sleeping rough in Camden, including access to accommodation and a range of other services.
“I’m also concerned that our contracted waste operator has been engaged in this operation and I will be personally looking into why this has happened.”
In response to the video, one X user said: “This is a disgrace and will never be forgotten. Kick Braverman out.”
Another added: “You can see that tent is full of belongings too. This is heartbreaking.”
“It takes a certain type of cruelty to do that to someone who has pretty much nothing,” another user commented.
We’re calling on the Prime Minister to make sure everyone can afford to stay in their homes and pay for the essentials. Will you join us and sign the petition?
The incident comes just days after Braverman sparked controversy over proposed plans to criminalise the use of tents to support rough sleepers.
The proposal – which did not appear in the King’s Speech – could have seen charities fined for handing out tents to people needing shelter on the streets.
“We cannot allow our streets to be taken over by rows of tents occupied by people, many of them from abroad, living on the streets as a lifestyle choice,” said Braverman in a thread on X.
She added: “What I want to stop, and what the law-abiding majority wants us to stop, is those who cause nuisance and distress to other people by pitching tents in public spaces, aggressively begging, stealing, taking drugs, littering, and blighting our communities.”
Big Issue founder Lord John Bird said: “Street homelessness is rarely a lifestyle choice, it’s a sign of a lack of governmental policy that seeks to address the fundamental flaws in our system and means people inevitably fall into the sticky stuff and can’t claw their way out again.”