TfL: Double Standards on Vagrancy

, 06 February 2017, Tags:

Last Saturday I heard the following announcement at Gants Hill underground station: “Begging contravenes by-laws. Please do not give these people money.” This is a shocking statement from TfL, as they work with charities to help the homeless (that often sleep in stations) find shelter.

A friend has also made me aware of a sign at Bethnal Green station that states:  

"£200 penalty for begging".  Whilst technically rough sleeping and begging is illegal under the Vagrancy Act of 1824, TfL should not be encouraging the enforcement of this barbaric and outdated law which criminalises our fellow citizens for falling on hard times - as any one of us could do in this age of austerity. As a regular commuter on the underground, I occasionally give those sleeping rough a few pounds to help them out. TFL should not be frowning on people like myself, but should focus instead on the work they are doing with charities and encourage commuters to help our fellow citizens by contacting charities such as Streetlink and Crisis, or talking to staff at stations.

In addition to writing this letter, I will be making a complaint to TfL and would urge others to do the same. Furthermore I urge every MP and councillor in our local area to push the government on abolishing the Vagrancy Act and instead put more resources into helping those who sleep rough. According to the charity Streets of London, homelessness has more than doubled in the last 5 years in our city. Homelessness is a crisis that we need to deal with effectively -  scapegoating and criminalising our fellow citizens doesn't help.

Lee Burkwood
Waltham Forest & Redbridge Green Party


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