Oxford City Council refutes claims by homelessness campaign that it will 'criminalise' rough sleeping

The council said that stipulations against rough sleeping would only apply to those who had a bed in a hostel or shelter

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The Independent Online

A petition that wants homeless people to be exempt from a new protection order that would “criminalise” rough sleeping has been signed by nearly 50,000 people.

Oxford City Council has put forward a proposal that would impose Public Spaces Protection Orders on various "anti-social activities" in the city. One of the offences mentioned is “street sleeping”.

A change.org petition started by On Your Doorstep says any ban would “only increase (already high) levels of stigma surrounding Oxford’s homeless population.”

The Independent contacted the council to clarify these proposals and, while the council confirmed that the proposals could see fines given to people for sleeping rough, they said that the only people who would be affected were those who “are already receiving support and accommodation".

A spokesman confirmed that the only people sleeping rough who could be targeted were those who had a bed available to them in a hostel or a shelter and that anyone without accommodation would not find themselves moved or fined.

Peter Sloman, Chief Executive of Oxford City Council said in a statement: “It is untrue that the proposed Order would ‘criminalise’ rough sleeping.”

The statement added: “The experience of the team [working with homeless people] is that a small number of people continue to beg and sleep on the City’s streets despite receiving support and having been allocated accommodation.

“It is the only behaviour that would be covered by the Public Spaces Protection Order.”

The petition suggests that the proposals "risk treating rough sleepers as a problem to be dealt with, as an inconvenience, as a threat, rather than as individual human beings".

On Your Doorstep is a student run Oxford based campaign which aims to raise awareness about homelessness and issues surrounding homelessness.

On Your Doorstep could not be reached for comment at the time of writing