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14 February 2018

Royal wedding homeless clearance

In Windsor none of us want to see homeless people on the street

A Labour Party member and activist, Windsor

In Windsor none of us want to see homeless people on the street.

Homelessness is on the increase, and particularly so since 2010. Neighbouring towns like Slough suffered more, but social problems became more the norm in Windsor too.

In 2009 a man died on the steps of Holy Trinity Church near the centre of town, frozen to death. He was hungry, he was homeless.

The Windsor Homeless Project was formed and granted the use of the local Baptist church. To date it opens three days a week with a small number of staff including volunteers. Lack of funds prevents them doing more.

The Tory leader of the council, Simon Dudley, decided the police needed to get rid of them using the Vagrancy Act of 1824.

He attacked "aggressive begging" by those he said had made a "commercial life choice."

Many people are compassionate and give time, money, food and gifts to homeless people. It's true people can sometimes feel threatened and anxious around some beggars. That is how many homeless people feel too.

Dudley wants the homeless off the streets before the royal wedding in May. He plans to fine them 100. There's a protest planned on the day of the wedding, including sleeping out on the castle grounds.

In Windsor none of us want to see homeless people on the street.

Dudley comfortably survived a vote of no confidence after thousands signed a petition against. A group of six independent councillors brought the motion to an open, emergency council meeting on 29 January.

Three councillors had resigned from the Tory group, calling themselves 'Independent Conservatives'.

A protest of 20 or more gathered outside with placards, mainly from the local Labour Party. As is their habit, the Tories slid in a back way to avoid any potential interaction or confrontation.

Did Dudley then realise what a nasty man he was and how harshly he had treated the homeless?

Let's say he withdrew all his comments and resigned in shame, apologising to the council and local community.

The Tories promised to build a shelter in Windsor, open all year round to anyone in need. Not just the one Dudley had referred to so often in the media - situated in Maidenhead, with eight places, men only, and full.

Services would be coordinated by properly trained and paid workers, including those with direct knowledge and experience like the Windsor Homeless Project, on secure contracts.

Dudley would resign his position as a director for the Homes and Communities Agency, a government body with responsibility for homelessness.

... But then I woke up from the dream.

Windsor and Maidenhead Council voted 43 to nine against the no-confidence motion. All Dudley's little Tory clique applauded noisily as their leader won his day.

And with breathtaking arrogance, he walked off with his mates to their expensive cars to celebrate.

In Windsor none of us want to see homeless people on the street.