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Last Updated:  Monday, 17 March, 2003, 15:02 GMT
Curb 'soup kitchens' says council
Homeless people
Westminster has more homeless people than other borough
Soup kitchens should stop serving food to the homeless to get them off the streets, according to a central London council.

Westminster City Council is thought to have the most rough sleepers in the country and wants to move them into hostels.

It has been considering various "tough love" policies, including fining rough sleepers 500 and backing moves to give persistent beggars a criminal record.

But despite a drop in rough sleeper numbers from 267 in June 1998 to 116 this February, a hardcore of homeless people will not accept beds provided.

The council believes soup runs take away the motivation to come off the streets into hostels where they can get specialist care.

The Salvation Army said a minority of homeless people need the kind of front-line help provided by soup runs.

Simon Milton
Mr Milton says hostels provide specialist care
But council leader Simon Milton said: "The compassionate thing to do is get people off the streets, into specialist care, rather than sustain them there - and that's what soup runs are doing."

Homeless charity Thames Reach Bondway said there were up to 100 soup runs in central London.

It stopped handing out hot food and instead offers first aid and basic help to encourage people into shelters.

Spokesman Jeremy Swain said: "In one particular site in central London we had eight rough sleepers left in the end, and over eight runs serving them during the night.

"It has become very disproportionate response to a problem on the streets."




WATCH AND LISTEN
BBC London's Mike Ramsden
"Most homeless groups agree there probably are too many different charities handing out food in central London."



SEE ALSO:
Beggars top West End 'pet hates'
09 Mar 03 |  England
Rough sleepers face 500 fine
27 Sep 02 |  England
Homeless food scheme expands
10 Oct 01 |  England
Life on the streets goes on
03 Dec 01 |  UK News


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