Redbridge Council considers forcing Ilford rough sleeper camp into emergency accommodation
- Credit: Archant
Community groups and kind-hearted passersby are being called on to give their donations directly to rough sleeping charities – rather than at an Ilford homeless camp.
The call comes amid news that Redbridge Council is considering taking enforcement action to move rough sleepers from a camp in the heart of Ilford town centre into emergency accommodation in coming weeks.
Around eight people are believed to sleep rough at the camp in Havelock Street on any given night, according to the council’s most recent data.
This is despite the council opening a night shelter in Ryedale Court, in Ilford Lane, in December last year.
Alongside the Salvation Army’s night shelter in Clements Road, these two shelters are believed to provide enough beds for the borough’s entire rough sleeping population.
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The reasons why people continue to sleep outside, amid freezing temperatures, are complex.
But Sonia Lynch, manager of homelessness charity The Welcome Centre, in St Mary’s Road, believes that directing donations away from the camp and towards the shelters can help get people out of the cold and into accommodation.
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“There is no incentive for somebody to leave from where they are if everything is being brought to them in terms of food, money and clothing,” she said.
“While people are trying to help – it may actually be keeping people on the streets.”
“One of the things we don’t want to is discourage people from giving.
“Rather, we’d like to encourage them giving in the right way – through the night shelters.”
She added that, while having “mixed feelings”, she understands the need for potential enforcement action to be carried out in a “positive and non-aggressive way”.
“Once everyone is in accommodation, we can start dealing with all the other aspects,” she said.
“That’s the only way we’re going to be able to improve the situation.”
On a snapshot visit to the Havelock Street underpass on February 1, which much of the borough blanketed in snow, the Recorder counted a combined total of 12 mattresses, sofas and beds.
Five people were found bedded down as a steady, noisy stream of traffic whizzes past.
The stretch of pavement is scattered with litter, discarded food, packaging and a mess of bedding.
However neatly ordered belongings - hung up clothing, piled up food cartons and stacked bottles of water – can be found amid the chaos.
Inside a blue camping tent, draped in a tiger-print duvet, are a couple who do not wish to be named.
Another among them is Bogdan, from Poland, whose English is limited.
The Recorder understands that outreach workers are repeatedly visiting the camps with flyers in English and Polish to inform them the area will be cleaned in coming weeks.
In accordance with the rough sleeper protocol, all bedding and litter would be removed, while personal belonging must be safely stored for collection.
A council spokeswoman said: “With current weather conditions, we are assisting all rough sleepers into emergency accommodation and have activated the severe weather emergency protocol to make sure they are safe and indoors.
“Our data suggests there are approximately eight individuals sleeping at this location on any given night.
“Together with our partners we want to ensure all rough sleepers in Havelock Street receive outreach support and are offered accommodation.
“With freezing temperatures, we might take the decision to enforce this area so these rough sleepers are protected and moved into emergency accommodation.
“This falls within the remit of the Rough Sleeping Protocol.
“Enforcement will only follow intensive outreach and as a last resort in the best interests of the rough sleepers considering the weather.”
Redbridge Together, of which the Recorder is a media partner, aims to raise £500,000 for Project Malachi and The Welcome Centre.
Project Malachi will see a temporary hostel by created from recycled shipping containers in Chadwick Road, Ilford.
Your donations will help Project Malachi help more of the borough’s most vulnerable rough sleepers for as long as it is needed.
The Welcome Centre, in St Mary’s Road, helps with providing hot meals, showers, clothing and laundry but also advice and support, training and employment and a nurse-led clinic supporting health and mental health.
Businesses can support by donating money, raising funds, displaying Redbridge Together promotional material or offering work placements.
The campaign is an association between Ilford Salvation Army, The Welcome Centre, Ilford BID, the Ilford Recorder and Redbridge Council.
To get involved email firstname.lastname@example.org
Donate £3 by texting LIFE to 70145 or at Crowdfunder.co.uk/RedbridgeTogether