Police chief wants to have Nightwatch soup kitchen moved on

Croydon Nightwatch, the local charity whose nightly work with the homeless and poor at Queen’s Gardens has been under threat from the council, today described comments by the borough’s police commander, David Musker, as ill-informed and accused Croydon’s most senior police officer as abusing his influential position.

Borough Commander David Musker: move along please...

Borough Commander David Musker: move along please…

Musker had said that he believes soup kitchens “actually contribute to anti-social behaviour and criminality in the town centre”. The same might be said of some of the pubs and nightclubs in the town centre, although Musker is not thought to have put forward any proposals to have them moved along.

Musker said, “The reality is that a number of people use the soup kitchen in Croydon in order to spend their money on alcohol rather than on food. This, in turn, leads to these individuals committing crime or anti-social behaviour.”

But Jad Adams, the chair of Croydon Nightwatch, which has been offering food aid to sometimes more than a hundred people a night since the colder weather set in this winter, was blunt in repudiating Croydon’s top cop’s views, citing a study of soup kitchens conducted for Westminster Council by the London School of Economics.

“Mr Musker’s opinions are markedly lacking in factual substance,” Adams said.

“He does not think much of soup runs, and that is his right, but that does not mean he should be using the influence of the police to denigrate the work of fellow citizens in Croydon.”

Referring to the LSE study conducted in 2009 on behalf of Tory-run Westminster and Crisis, the homelessness charity, Adams said, “It was believed by Westminster that the work would condemn soup runs as useless or actually contributing to the problem, as Mr Musker feels they do.

“The resulting report, Soup Runs in Central London found value in soup runs as lifelines to those unable or unwilling to access other services. There was also a suggestion ‘that soup runs help prevent crime and anti-social behaviour by providing resources to vulnerable people who may otherwise take unlawful action to survive’.”

Musker’s comments, coming less than a week since Inside Croydon published a confidential council report that suggested “utilising all available bye [sic] laws” to stop the charity handing out food to the homeless and poor in Queen’s Gardens, underlines that the local police are keen to see an end to Nightwatch’s activities. There is also a strong sense that the charity’s activities are inconvenient for the council’s plans to transform the town centre, including the Taberner House site with adjoins the open space and is earmarked for £100 million-worth of yuppie flats.

Musker clearly does not see emergency aid for the homeless as something he wants on the streets of the borough. “We need to be looking at ways in which we can help those in need to get permanently off the streets and having dealt with similar issues in other parts of London, I do not think soup kitchens are part of this. There are other ways we can support those in need,” Musker said, although he failed to offer what those alternatives might be.

Adams has described the proposals to use local by-laws and £50 fines to force Croydon Nightwatch away from Queen’s Gardens as “immoral, politically inept and open to legal challenge”.

“What we do is entirely legal. The soup run itself is not the location of anti-social behaviour. People minded to commit acts of anti-social behaviour will do so anyway.

“There has been a total failure to grasp the context of our situation and that of others dealing with the poor in today’s climate.”

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This entry was posted in Charity, Church and religions, Crime, Croydon Council, Croydon Nightwatch, David Musker, Policing, Taberner House and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Police chief wants to have Nightwatch soup kitchen moved on

  1. The Commander will be aware that alcohol/drug addiction is an illness and difficult for sufferers to beat. Fortunately there are people and charities who will offer support where they see need irrespective of the underlying cause. Is the Commander suggesting that each needy person should be means tested to make sure they are not spending their limited finances on alcohol, cigarettes or whatever else he sees as inappropriate? At national level we send £ millions to India in aid yet they have a space programme that dwarfs ours. Perhaps that money, and similar aid to countries where they “waste money”, should be diverted to helping our needy people closer to home?

  2. I suppose it would be too much to expect David Musker and Mike Fisher to put their prejudices to the test by getting out from behind their respective desks and joining Jad Adams and his colleagues distributing soup?
    Many years ago I did the odd night shift at a reception centre for the homeless at Camberwell. The duty involved chatting to rough sleepers underneath the arches at Waterloo.
    I found it sad, but fascinating.
    Go with an open mind gentlemen, you might actually learn something about life.

  3. ndavies144 says:

    This is not the slightest bit surprising. The cops have always got itchy about large groups of people; they’ll fret about a middle-class farmers’ market let alone a soup kitchen. You do wonder if some police would only be happy if they could ban assemblies of more than three people and impose a dawn to dusk curfew.

  4. A very disappointing and unhelpful comment from Mr. Musker who should perhaps pay a visit to soup kitchens in Croydon and London. It is a crying shame that there are people who are hungry in our midst. Pope Francis said: “To live charitably means not looking out for our own interests, but carrying the burdens of the weakest and poorest among us.”
    We should all live charitably.

  5. Yes Mr. Musker – some may be taking advantage of Nightwatch but the numbers in need of it are on the up this Christmas

  6. mraemiller says:

    I think we may be missing the bigger picture (or another picture) here which is a place that had previously been a public space for decades is about to no longer be a public space. I imagine the homeless are just the first to be told to get lost out of Queens Gardens. Who next? Unemployed and old people who hang out there? All those newly married couples who used to have their pictures taken there on a Saturday – clearly they are all in gangs …I wonder…

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