|Is there anything more absurd than the Olympics?|
'Homeless people are heading to Brighton and Hove to escape a purge of London’s streets ahead of the Olympics.
Charities have reported “harassment” of rough sleepers in the capital as London mayor Boris Johnson looks to eradicate homelessness before the 2012 Games.
As people look to escape the operation, Sussex Police has been forced to include the impact into its plans to deal with homeless people. It comes as city bosses reported dramatic increases in both rough sleeping and homelessness with hundreds more possibly affected due to changes in Governmóent benefits.
Hove MP Mike Weatherley said: “If there has been some sort of drive to reduce homelessness in London, I can only hope that it has been carried out in a responsible manner. Moving on a problem, rather than tackling it, is hardly fair. I look forward to looking into this further as soon as I receive full confirmation of the facts.”
The campaign to end rough sleeping in London for good began in 2005 after the capital was awarded the 2012 Olympic Games. Within this is Operation Poncho, a joint council and police initiative which has been criticised by charities for “harassment” tactics.
It included reports of people being woken in the night and forced to move on. Previous Olympics in Sydney in 2000 and Atlanta in 1996 saw reports of forcible removal of the homeless during the games for image purposes. Brighton and Hove City Council leader Bill Randall said the latest rough sleeping figures were “indicative of the housing issues we face”.
Council officials have counted 42 rough sleepers in the city – three times the 14 reported by the Government in December. The latest figure is comparable to 1998 when there were 48 rough sleepers recorded on the city’s streets. However, council counts are generally recognised as including only a fraction of the true level of rough sleeping in Brighton and Hove.
Chief Inspector Bruce Mathews, of Sussex Police, said it was hard to gauge the reasons why homeless people move from one place to another. However, he said: “There is always a possibility that if somewhere else is focusing on homeless people, they may displace any problem or issue. It is one of those issues we are aware of but I can’t say whether it is having an effect on either London's volumes or the type of person that is homeless in the city.”
Brighton Pavilion MP Caroline Lucas recently claimed 840 people in the city could be affected by Government changes to housing benefit. She said: “My surgeries are full of people who are struggling to pay rent and find alternatives to overcrowded and overpriced accommodation “Ministers must now heed the warnings and reverse this measure to avert an epidemic of homelessness amongst the most vulnerable in our community.”