Council cleans site for homeless
Areas where rough sleepers bed down are being hosed by councils at night as a "psychological bullying tactic", homeless people have claimed.
Cleaners often arrive with police and ask homeless people to move before dousing the area.
The rough sleepers, who then have to leave, say it causes sleep deprivation and amounts to criminal harassment.
Westminster and City of London, among the boroughs using the cleaning method, said they simply want to clean streets.
But Peter Pickles, who has been sleeping rough in the City of London for four years, criticised the practice.
Mr Pickles, 58, said he had been woken between midnight and 0200 BST at his favourite spot in Salisbury Square four times during the past week.
He said: "How would you like being woken in the middle of the night and told 'move, we are about to hose down the area'?
"When it is happens every night it causes sleep deprivation and mental stress.
"They say they are cleaning it but I would put it in one word - harassment."
Mr Pickles added: "They want us out of the way - but harassment is a criminal offence and an infringement of my human rights."
Richard Burdett is editor of Pavement, a magazine for homeless people.
He said: "The councils claim they are just doing it for cleaning purposes.
"But the fact they do it in the middle of the night backed up by police says it all.
"They are doing it as a psychological assault - it's bullying tactics."
A City of London Corporation spokesman said: "The City of London has an obligation to clean alleys littered with drink bottles and human faeces.
"However, targeted cleansing only occurs where there is a clear public health risk."
Westminster Council denied it used "hot washing" tactics to move homeless people on.
But a spokesman said staff regularly woke rough sleepers late at night and ordered them to move before hosing streets.
Councillor Philippa Roe said: "Any work to clean the streets where rough sleepers may have been sleeping is done sensitively, with their co-operation.
"They are informed prior to any cleansing and are asked to remove possessions from the street to ensure they do not get wet."