England: Councils buying homeless people one-way train tickets out of area

train1238928_960_720Councils in England are buying one-way train tickets for homeless people to move them out of their area, it has been reported.

The BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire Show said some councils had spent more than £1,000 a year to remove homeless people by giving them train tickets.

The strategy has been used to help homeless people return to their families, but one man told the programme he was offered a ticket to a city he had never been to before.

Through a Freedom of Information request, ten councils said they had bought ‘reconnection’ tickets for homeless people between 2012 and 2017.

Manchester City Council, which had 78 rough sleepers last year, said it had spent almost £10,000 on reconnecting homeless people in the past six years.

The council in Bournemouth said it had organised 144 reconnections in the space of three-and-a-half years.

Rough sleeper Gareth Glendall-Pickton, from Bournemouth, told the programme he was offered a ticket to Manchester, a city where he did not know anyone and had never previously visited.

He said: “It made me feel sick. I’ve lived here all my life. It’s soul-destroying.

“I think what they want to do is to get the homeless people out of Bournemouth, because all the new people coming to the area are seeing all those homeless people sitting there.”

He said the council “see it as making Bournemouth a bad place”.

According to UK government figures, there were 4,134 people sleeping on the streets last year, a 130% rise in six years.

The government says it is investing £550 million in the fight against homelessness.

Claire Matthews, who runs soup kitchen Hope for Food in Bournemouth, told the Victoria Derbyshire Show that one-way train tickets were a form of ‘social cleansing’.

Bournemouth Borough Council said it only offered train tickets to homeless people who do not have a local connection to the area and “where it can be proven that the service user can be safely reconnected back to their area of locality”.

Bristol City Council has offered 167 homeless people a one-way bus, train or plane ticket since 2014, but said it was only suggested if accommodation had been confirmed in the new area.

Exeter Borough Council spent £4,651 reconnecting 107 rough sleepers in a two-and-a-half year period.

Homeless Link chief executive, Rick Henderson, said: “If a person has a support network in a different area, then helping them reconnect can help to end their rough sleeping.

“Simply displacing rough sleepers without offering support is not solving the issue, and at worst can exacerbate their situation, leaving them more isolated and at risk of deteriorating physical and mental health.”