Homeless man 'lost everything' he owned when tent destroyed in Camden

  • Watch ITV News London's Anila Dhami's report

A man experiencing homelessness has told ITV News London everything he owned was destroyed when his tent was thrown away after police were called to clear rough sleepers from outside University College Hospital.

The man, who wanted to remain anonymous, was one of several people sleeping rough outside UCH who had their possessions thrown into the back of a waste collection lorry on Friday.

Footage posted by grassroots outreach group Streets Kitchen on X showed tents being thrown into the bin lorry as someone is heard saying, "oh god, this is disgusting."

University College Hospital London had applied for a dispersal order which was enforced by the police, while the waste collection services were arranged through Camden Council.

The local authority's rough sleeping support services was helping those affected, the council said.

"My clothing, everything from the past 23 years, all my belongings, is away...is gone," the man told ITV News London.

He continued: "The tent was like my home. It was where I found peace.

"I feel devastated you know."

He said he had been given no notice about the removal of his tent. UCH said rough sleepers had been spoken to earlier in the week about the intention to clear the site and were offered support.

He said he will get another tent but he would not be pitching it outside the hospital "after what I experienced".

"I wouldn't want it to be repeat." 

The video of the tents being cleared went viral on social media and provoked an outcry. The incident came days after former home secretary, Suella Braverman, described homelessness as a "lifestyle choice" and called for a crackdown on charities providing rough sleepers with tents.

On Tuesday, two tents were back outside UCH even after barriers had been erected around the hospital.

Camden Council said the incident was "unacceptable and doesn't reflect the values we hold as a Council". An investigation has been opened into Friday's incident.

Councillor Adam Harrison, Deputy Leader of Camden Council said: "It's important to acknowledge what happened on Friday was unacceptable. We are sorry about this and our acting leader of the council has ordered an investigation into what happened, which is ongoing and will report as soon as possible.

"Here in Camden we want to put people at the heart of everything we do, but it is clear that something has gone wrong here.

"We can now share that initial investigations, since the operation, have shown that there was operational involvement from Camden - what happened was unacceptable and doesn't reflect the values we hold as a Council. 

Tents protect people experiencing homelessness from the worst of the winter weather. Credit: ITV News

"We will make sure this is clear and understood at every level of the organisation. Whilst this dispersal order was applied for by University College Hospital London and enforced by the police, we acknowledge that waste collection services were arranged through the Council and our rough sleeping support services were engaged to support people affected.

"We are determined to make improvements to how rough sleepers are supported in the borough."

Mrs Braverman was sacked as home secretary on Monday following a series of controversial comments, including describing homelessness as a “lifestyle choice” as she called for a crackdown on the use of tents by homeless people. The plans have been shelved after her departure.

In the wake of the viral video, more than £10,000 was donated to Streets Kitchen, which has replaced the tents and belongings of the people affected by the incident.

UCH said: "During the past nine months, a growing number of people have been sleeping rough outside our hospitals.

"Over time, the hospital received an increasing number of complaints from patients, staff and members of the public about antisocial behaviour and criminal damage. Reports were also made to the police about other concerns including drug dealing. 

"There were 10 tents outside the University College Hospital Grafton Way Building, a specialist centre for cancer patients whose immune systems are compromised, which meant there were health and safety issues we felt we could not ignore, including an unauthorised entry into our hospital wards.

"We therefore began conversations with several partners about how best to reach a safe resolution for all.

"Our security and homeless teams worked with the police, Camden Council and their Safe Streets Team, and the charity Routes off the Street over several months. Representatives of all these organisations came on site to assess the situation to help develop a solution.

"Early in the week commencing 6 November these agencies spoke to the rough sleepers about the intention to clear the site by the end of the week and offered support.

"The police obtained a dispersal order on 10 November and gave the rough sleepers time to collect their belongings and leave. All but one of the rough sleepers left, some abandoning their tents. Only tents left behind by their owners were removed by our agency partners."

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