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.
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.”
- Nightwatch charity chairman: “Our activities are legal”
- Soup kitchen PR disaster forces council U-turn – for now
- Council to use “all available bye laws” to move soup kitchen
Coming to Croydon
- Riot from Wrong screening: Dec 5
- Crystal Palace Overground Festival meeting: Dec 5
- CP Mums’ Winter Wonderland: Dec 6
- Small Business Saturday in Crystal Palace: Dec 7
- Cinema Ruskin: Dec 21
- Steve Knightly at Stanley Halls: Feb 5
- Inside Croydon: Croydon’s only independent news source, based in the heart of the borough – 262,183 page views (Jan-Jun 2013)
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- The Politics of Soup Kitchens (theworkingclassheroes.wordpress.com)