A community action group has responded angrily to Labour councillors in South Norwood signing up to a police scheme intended to clear the area of street drinkers
Volunteers at the South Norwood Community Kitchen have characterised the plans as “social cleansing”, and warned of the “disastrous impact” that the scheme might have.
The proposals for “no drinking zones”, with on-the-spot penalty notices for offenders, on some of the borough’s high streets are part of a scheme announced earlier this month by Tory Mayor Jason Perry.
“There is no room for anti-social behaviour in Croydon and I am pleased we can help our high streets thrive by supporting the police to deter this behaviour,” Croydon’s part-time Mayor said.
“I am working closely with the police and all our local partners to make sure our communities feel safe in their local area, and restore pride in our high streets, by starting with the visible effects of crime – tackling anti-social behaviour, removing graffiti and cleaning up our streets.”
At the weekend, Louis Carserides, the new-ish councillor and stooge of MP Steve Reed, posted an “update” on social media which outraged many volunteers and helpers at the South Norwood Community Kitchen.
Founded five years ago, to much public acclaim including from local politicians, SNCK last week opened its first permanent premises, in the Socco Cheta community building on Portland Road.
Today, in an open letter sent to South Norwood’s three Labour councillors – Carserides, Stella Nabukeera and Christopher Herman – SNCK says that the police initiative will target the kitchen’s vulnerable clients, including some of those who rallied round to help build Socco Cheta.
“Without their help the project you all speak so highly of never would have happened,” SNCK say in their letter.
“We have worked tirelessly over the years to challenge local misconceptions about these people… It is deeply concerning that our own Labour councillors hold the very same views we work hard to combat.”
The volunteers in the kitchen collective have issued demands that the Labour councillors withdraw their support for a “no drinking zone” on South Norwood High Street “and immediately cease your ‘engagement’ and collection of ‘intel’ from vulnerable members of our community”.
One prominent SNCK supporter said over the weekend in reaction to the Carserides announcement: “South Norwood Labour up to a bit of social cleansing. More like the Tories than the sodding Tories.
“Bring it on Louis – you attack our community and you’ll see how strong we are when we mobilise together.”
Inside Croydon here publishes the SNCK open letter in full:
Dear Stella, Chris and Louis,
We are writing to you in direct response to your Casework Update on Facebook regarding the proposed criminalisation of ‘street drinkers’ in South Norwood. We urge you to consider the disastrous impact your suggested proposals would have on the community we all serve.
As you all know well, for the last five years South Norwood Community Kitchen has used the power of food to fight poverty and inequality, as well as bring our community together. You all know this as you have each visited the project on busy Saturdays, chatted to our volunteers and listened to our guests talk about the challenges they experience.
Your support to criminalise those who are homeless and have addictions through the issuing of CPNs to ‘street drinkers’ and a future ‘no drinking’ zone for South Norwood High Street sadly tells us that you listened to very little of what you heard in the company of our friends from the local community.
Many of them help local businesses and business owners, many volunteer with us at SNCK, many provide essential support to those that need it- sometimes financial, sometimes emotional, sometimes practical.
Many of them built Socco Cheta, and without their help the project you all speak so highly of never would have happened.
We have worked tirelessly over the years to challenge local misconceptions about these people, and the response to your Facebook post on the topic speaks volumes to the success we have had in doing so. It is deeply concerning that our own Labour councillors hold the very same views we work hard to combat.
We know that South Norwood is not a paradise. We understand that there are actions and behaviours that need to be addressed.
Criminalising those who need our support, or forcing them into another area without addressing the root causes of the issue is not a solution. Providing easier access to drug and alcohol services is. Addressing Croydon’s housing crisis is.
If you were really concerned by these issues, you would know that no other local authority in London is promoting a one-track, policing approach such as the one you are promoting. You would also know about the mountain of evidence proving this to be a public health issue, a social and a welfare issue that requires a whole-community, multi-agency framework approach locally.
You would have looked into best practice and evidence-based approaches first. There are already mechanisms in place to address criminal behaviour, without introducing Draconian measures designed not to help people but to sanitise local areas of those that new communities find distasteful, or that do not fit into their vision of where they want to live.
It is called social cleansing. Is this what you support?
In your casework update you refer to the Craft Beer Cabin, without a hint of irony. Do you welcome street drinking when it’s carried out by those who can afford £6 for a pint of beer?
This decision would show a complete lack of empathy for those in our community who are at the sharp end of life, the very people who expect you to speak up for them. Today London will hit record temperatures, that will result in a risk of life to those who are vulnerable, like those ‘street drinkers’ you refer to in your post. We would expect you to be handing out bottles of water instead of gathering ‘intel’ in order to remove them from their communities.
The ‘street drinkers’ you refer to are human beings. Your response lacks all compassion and empathy.
We demand that you:
- Rescind your support for a “no drinking zone” on South Norwood High Street and immediately cease your ‘engagement’ and collection of ‘intel’ from vulnerable members of our community
- Propose a multi-agency framework approach that is in line with latest, best practice approaches nationally
South Norwood Community Kitchen
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