Social Affairs

A London transport advice booklet has described the homeless as ‘dirty and smelly’

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London transport have launched an investigation after a booklet was issued to underground workers that described homeless people as “dirty and smelly.

The booklet, titled ‘safer spaces’ advised tube staff that the homeless can become aggressive and that they should call the police if spotted on the network. The booklet went on to say that:

They are often dirty and smelly but, in reality they are usually fairly amenable to being moved on, although there’s always the exception. Some are affected by alcohol and this, in turn can make them aggressive.”

The Chief Executive of the St Mungo’s homeless charity, Howard Sinclair, responded to the booklet, claiming that: “Each person’s story, a tragedy in its own right, will only end well if we help people rediscover their self-respect, confidence and good health. It is a shame that whoever wrote, and whoever agreed, this guidance overlooked that fact. I’m sure that on reflection they will have wished they had.”

In a typically turgid and mealy-mouthed response, a spokesperson for the London Underground, said that:

I apologise wholeheartedly for the language used in this document, which is completely unacceptable and wholly un-reflective of our views or approach to this issue. We’ve immediately withdrawn it from circulation and are carrying out an urgent review into how the document came to be produced. We work closely with our established partners at the Thames reach charity to ensure we provide as much support as possible to homeless people, and have a long history of treating homeless people with respect.”

This dehumanising document from London transport is the latest in a lengthy list of public sector initiatives – mainly from local councils – that portray the homeless as violent deviants that should be avoided and pushed to the margins, rather than helped. It is utterly shameful.

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