Oxford city council threatens rough sleepers with £2,500 fine

Homeless people in the city have been warned to remove bags from doorways or face criminal penalties

They may not have much, but homeless people want to hold onto everything they own. Understandably.

In Oxford it has become a struggle to do so. Bosses at the city council are now threatening the rough sleepers who leave possessions in doorways with fines of £2,500.

Legal warnings have been stuck on bags claiming the destitute owners of the items are breaking antisocial behaviour laws.

Larry Sanders, brother of US politician Bernie Sanders and a former Oxford county councillor, denounced the policy as “harassment.” David Thomas, the leader of Oxford city council’s Green Party group, said the warnings were “intimidating.”

In a statement on Twitter, Oxford City Council said the bags left outside fire escape entrances of shops and offices, posed “a risk to those working inside.”

The council added: “We put notices on all the bags, giving owners two days to remove their belongings…Lockers are available for homeless people who are accessing services in the city to store their belongings.”

It’s only a couple of years ago that Oxford Labour tried to fine the homeless for sleeping rough in the city centre.

In 2015, Oxford City Council proposed a ban on rough sleeping in the city under a Public Spaces Protection Order, before a well-organised campaign prevented the draconian measure from being introduced.

The city council decided such a punitive approach to people in personal crisis “was not likely to be the most effective way of tackling these issues.”

Councillor Thomas said: “There a pattern here. It’s only a couple of years ago that Oxford Labour tried to fine the homeless for sleeping rough in the city centre. It took an alliance of student activists, Liberty and the Greens to make them see sense that time.”

Photo: Garry Knight, licensed under Creative Commons.