The destruction of homeless people’s tents outside a Camden hospital earlier this month is a regular occurrence, a homeless outreach organisation has claimed.
This comes as the Labour council’s involvement in the operation was described as ‘one of the darkest days in this council’s history’ by the Camden Liberal Democrats this week.
Streets Kitchen’s viral social media video showed refuse workers throwing homeless people’s tents and belongings in the back of bin lorries outside University College London Hospital (UCLH), on November 10.
Volunteer for Street Kitchen Elodie Berland, 49, said: “Something wrong happened here, we all know it happens on a regular basis.
“It’s not the first time it’s happened, but it’s the first time it’s visible.”
One person was arrested as around ten tents were cleared in a Metropolitan Police operation on Huntley Street after they issued a S35 dispersal order.
In a statement, the Metropolitan Police said they were responding to UCLH concerns for patient welfare in addition to complaints of antisocial behaviour and criminal damage.
Camden Council had also instructed refuse company, Veolia, to remove the tents despite initially denying their involvement in a social media post, which they subsequently deleted.
Streets Kitchen founder, Jon Glacken, said: “Everything these people owned was taken from them.
“UCLH, Camden Police, the Camden Council, worked hand in hand in this.
“It doesn’t matter whose idea it was, they all thought it was a wonderful idea to deprive these people of their personal possessions as a way of combatting homelessness.”
The 53-year-old added: “This isn’t a unique incident.”
Barriers to prevent rough sleepers have now been erected on Huntley Street but some have still returned to the area.
The following Monday, Labour councillor Adam Harrison admitted the council had ‘operational involvement’ and that acting council leader, Pat Callaghan, had ordered an investigation.
That week, council leaders appeared alongside those affected at a community meeting on homelessness co-hosted by Streets Kitchen and the Camden New Journal.
At the event, Callaghan stressed the council were taking the matter seriously and cited lack of funds and housing for the borough’s homelessness problem.
She said: “Camden should be a place where everyone has a home.
“We will do everything in our power to build more houses, more temporary accommodation, so we can house people.”
At a council meeting on Monday, Callaghan announced the council had reached out to those affected and promised to provide ‘extensive support to those individuals’.
Leader of the opposition in the council chamber, Liberal Democrat Tom Simon, welcomed the investigation but criticised the council’s ‘weak response’.
Speaking to North West Londoner on Thursday, Simon reiterated that the council’s involvement was one of the darkest days in its history.
He said: “It was really terrible what happened.
“One of the barriers to helping people off the street is a distrust of authority and when you have something like this, it’s really corrosive to any trust that might exist.
“We really need to make sure that the council looks very carefully at its processes around rough sleeping, and we’ll keep asking questions about what the council’s done to help those affected.”
Streets Kitchen say the community response to the incident has been ‘empowering’ after the viral video caused outrage and encouraged people to donate.
In a post on social media, they revealed that staff at UCLH made a donation of £400 to the group’s winter appeal in what they said was a ‘beautiful act of solidarity’.
The incident took place within Sir Keir Starmer’s constituency who welcomed the council’s investigation in a statement.
He added: “It is vital that adequate support and assistance is offered to those who need it.”
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said he was ‘appalled’ when he saw the images and his team were looking into what happened.
He added that he wanted to “make sure it doesn’t happen again in any part of our great city.”