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Camden: Outcry after homeless people's tents destroyed near north London hospital entrance

Footage appeared to show the tents being put into a waste disposal truck (Streets Kitchen / Twitter)
Footage appeared to show the tents being put into a waste disposal truck (Streets Kitchen / Twitter)

Homeless people sleeping in tents near to a north London hospital entrance were forcibly removed on Friday afternoon.

Around ten tents near University College Hospital were forcibly removed in a move called “outrageous” by a homelessness charity.

Footage by Streets Kitchen, which supports those sleeping on the streets, appeared to show some tents being thrown into a waste disposal truck.

Camden Council has since vowed an "urgent" investigation into the dispersal, saying it was "concerned" that its waste contractor appeared to have been involved.

Pat Callaghan, acting council leader, said: “We are deeply concerned to see these videos and I am ordering an urgent investigation into what happened.

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“Nothing is more important to us than the welfare, safety, and rights of every person who is experiencing homelessness.

"Our outreach team, Routes off the Streets, have been working hard to offer support to every person sleeping rough in Camden, including access to accommodation and a range of other services.

"I'm also concerned that our contracted waste operator has been engaged in this operation and I will be personally looking into why this has happened.”

Streets Kitchen has vowed to “distribute as many tents as we can get our hands on” in response.

A hospital spokesperson claimed those sleeping rough had been forced to move due to “public health concerns”.

“Following public health concerns, the police have helped to relocate some people sleeping outside the Grafton Way Building, a hospital treating immunocompromised patients,” said a spokesperson for the trust which runs the hospital.

The spokesperson added the hospital was “deeply committed” to improving homeless people’s health, referencing its Find and Treat Clinic, which “tests and treats thousands of homeless patients a year for serious illness.”

A Met Police spokesperson said it had issued a Section 35 dispersal order for the area, which gives officers the power to exclude a person from an area for a period of up to 48 hours.

University College Hospital (Getty Images)
University College Hospital (Getty Images)

The power can only be used if officers believe a person’s behaviour is causing alarm and distress, or is otherwise contributing to crime and disorder, or is likely to.

“Met officers worked with University College London Hospital and other partners in response to concerns about approximately ten tents near the entrance to the hospital in Huntley Street, NW1,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

“One person was arrested for breach of a S35 dispersal order having refused to comply with the police direction to relocate from the area. He has been taken into police custody.

“Appropriate support is being provided by partner organisations to those affected.”

Footage also appeared to show officers placing items from the tents into bags.

The removal of the tents came as the temperature in London was expected to drop to as low as 4C overnight on Friday.

Last week, Home Secretary Suella Braverman labelled rough sleeping a “lifestyle choice” and vowed to restrict the use of tents by homeless people, sparking a backlash.

Ms Braverman had planned to crack down on the use of tents by homeless people in urban areas, despite concerns by charities.

However, the proposals were not in the King’s Speech unveiled earlier this week, although this does not prevent it from happening in future.