A council has backed down after letters it gave to rough sleepers ordering them to move on or have their belongings confiscated caused an outcry.
One man said he woke to find the letter from Waltham Forest Borough Council taped to the wall above his sleeping bag.
It stated he was “trespassing on council land” and should sleep at a campsite in Lee Valley — more than an hour away by public transport — or contact council housing services.
Signed by the anti-social behaviour officer, it read: “Please vacate and remove your possessions immediately, otherwise they will be removed by the council.”
The man, who did not wish to be named, has slept in a disused doorway near Leytonstone Tube station for several months.
He said: “When I got the letter I just felt like killing myself, to be honest. The council [officer] that gave me the letter started threatening me with the police, saying ‘I’ll come back in the morning and get them to forcibly remove you’.”
Another man, who also wishes to remain unnamed, said he found the same letter this week and ripped it down.
Resident Suzanne Muna, 51, launched a petition on Change.org demanding the council “stop harassing the homeless” and accusing officers of “stripping them of the last vestiges of human dignity”. Petition respondents criticised the council online.
Deputy leader of Waltham Forest council Clyde Loakes said: “We would like to apologise to the individual to which this letter is addressed and our officers will be in contact with him to do so in person.
“This letter will not be used again and a full and immediate review will now be undertaken into how this came about.”
He said the council funded interventions to help the homeless and that one of the men had refused help by support services.
Londoners say rough sleeping has surged in the capital in recent years, a survey showed today.
Seven in 10 think the problem is worse across the city, while nearly half reported a rise in their own area, a poll for Queen Mary University of London found.
More than half think the Government is most responsible for the increase, while one in six blamed their local borough council.
Professor Philip Cowley of the university’s Mile End Institute said: “It’s rare in polling to find things where almost everyone agrees — but Londoners overwhelmingly think rough sleeping has got worse and four out of 10 of us think it’s got a lot worse in recent years.”