Social Media

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Council faces backlash over 'shameful' adverts which demonise homeless

Written by Claire Hayhurst

A council has been criticised for erecting posters that make passers-by "suspicious of homeless people".

The poster, by Gloucester City Council, states: "Are you really helping homeless people?

"In some cases, the people you see sleeping rough are not homeless. They are in accommodation, receiving support and benefits.

"Think before you give - change is more than coins."

Fran Boait, Labour's prospective parliamentary candidate for Gloucester, tweeted: "This is an awful advert.

"Streetlink is really important, but making people suspicious of homeless people is horrible. This framing is all wrong and undermines the care we need for people sleeping rough."

The advert encourages people who are worried about sleeping rough to contact StreetLink, or give money to an "established homeless charity".

This service aims to enable members of the public to connect people sleeping rough with local services that can support them.

In a statement, Councillor Terry Pullen and Ms Boait said: "The posters imply that most homeless people are not genuine but trying to con people out of money.

"This is shameful and effectively demonises one of the most vulnerable groups of people in our society who need our kindness and care.

"We call upon Gloucester City Council to immediately withdraw these posters.

"We are fully supportive of the initiatives that are in place to help homeless people and would welcome these being publicised in a positive way so that the public are aware as to what they can do to help the homeless."

Councillor Jennie Watkins (Conservative), cabinet member for communities and neighbourhoods, said a "huge amount" of work had gone into helping people who are sleeping rough in Gloucester.

"The launch of our 'Street Aware' campaign is to raise public awareness about alternative giving," she said.

"It's a tough message to deliver, but we must consider whether giving money directly to individuals is the best way to support them to make positive and sustainable change.

"Giving money to people who beg may make life on the street easier for them in the short term, but, in the worst case, could feed dependency. It takes more than money to turn a life around."

She acknowledged that issue was "challenging and sensitive" but said it had to be raised to achieve "real change".

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Rod Minchin / PA Wire.