The city Council recently revealed plans for a public space protection order in the city centre.
Issues such as ‘aggressive begging’ and ‘any unauthorised bedding, bivouac or encampment’ have been targeted in a protection order from the council.
Homeless people have said the plans are unfair and unhelpful and suggested solutions such as allocated camping spots and day storage for bedding materials.
Still in the proposal stages, the PSPO states that if a person fails to clear away and remove any bedding or such like, that is formed together in the street, then an authorised person, such as a police officer, would be able to confiscate and dispose of the items with or without the permission of its owner.
Homeless man, Steve Oswold said he already feels victimised by the amount he is moved on every day by Police.
“They’re already coming down a bit too hard on the homeless in Exeter.
“I get moved on two to three times a day. but it’s coming to the point now where you can sit down in town and you get moved on. It’s almost like the police have nothing better to do.
“People taking legal highs are giving us a bad name, so I guess it’s to make the public feel safer. But it’s a bit harsh to take away someone’s bedding.
“I usually sleep outside McDonald’s and I always clear up after myself. Everyone’s got a right to their own things.”
Councillors at the September community scrutiny meeting raised concerns that this could impact homeless people who suffer with mental health issues and force the problem out to areas of the city that are not covered by the PSPO.
Rough sleeper Shane McCarthy said,
“We’ve got nowhere we can pitch our tents, it would be good if they could offer allocated spacing. If your tent is taken you get charged £75 to get it back. I’m homeless, I don’t have £75. I have to borrow it from one end of the Council to pay back the other so I can get my stuff back.”
Suggestions to extend the geographical limits to Belmont Park and Bonhay Road have also been put forward.
Homeless man Ian Greenway added,
“I think it’s unfair because it prejudices against homeless people. We’ll have to constantly replace the items that get taken. Charities like St Petrock’s do have supplies of that stuff but you can’t go in every day asking for a new sleeping bag. A good idea would be a locker for day storage.”
Under the order anti social behaviours of drinking, taking legal highs and urinating in the street will all be banned and finable within the city centre.
A homeless woman in the city who wished to remain anonymous said,
“All I know is that people taking legal highs, and beggars, are given the orders. It is a bit bad to take someone’s bedding. Most homeless people won’t have anywhere to put it and the next night they’ll be cold. They could end up doing something that could lead to an arrest so they can avoid sleeping rough.”
The definition of street drinking and taking intoxicants was refined during the meeting as taking alcohol, inhaling, ingesting or injecting a psycho-active substance.
Councillors agreed at the meeting that targeting public urination within the order, would give an alternative intervention and help to crack down on the issue that arises mostly on Friday and Saturday nights.
The order is still in the proposal stages and a report is due by the end of the year to include recommendations on its implementation.