Bristol Housing Action Movement

Independent squatters and homeless group

Monday, 4 January 2016

St Mungos Homeless Outreach Workers Escorting UK Borders Agency Officers Around Rough Sleeping Spots in Bristol

Update 7 January: The allegation in this article that St Mungos Homeless Outreach workers accompanied and led UK Border Agency staff to rough sleeping spots in Bristol is not correct.

BHAM apologise to St Mungos and our supporters for publishing this inaccurate story without properly verifying the information.
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BHAM has been told homeless outreach workers from St Mungos are showing UK Borders Agency officers around rough sleeping spots in Bristol.  Rough sleepers are being detained and at least one has been deported to the Czech Republic.
Homelessness support workers traditionally have a similar relationship to their clients as a doctor to a patient or a drug advice worker to a client.  Support workers need to respect confidentiality and advocate for a homeless person's best interests.

Just as you wouldn't expect an addiction counsellor to systematically pass details of a clients drug use to the police you don't expect homeless outreach workers to be guiding authorities to places where people are sleeping rough.

It raises the question in whose interests are the St Mungos outreach team based at the Compass Centre working for - homeless people or the statutory authorities?

St Mungos are surprisingly balls-out about how they work with UK Borders Agency as can be seen by this line from a job advert for an Outreach Team Leader: "You will need to be comfortable with ... working closely with enforcement agencies such as the Police, with who you may be co-located, and UKBA" (here).

Back in 2012 St Mungos received nearly £200,000 to - in their words - "... work closely with local councils, the UK Borders Agency, the police and embassies" in West London (here).

When homeless people ask for help they have to say where they are sleeping in order to establish a local connection.  St Mungos appears to be using this information to help the immigration police find and deport their clients and their fellow rough sleepers.

BHAM has also been told that UK Borders Agency officers were refused entry into the Julian Trust nightshelter by the volunteers that run it and that the Methodist Centre staff - if approached - will not be allowing them access.  St Mungos appears to be out-of-step with other agencies working with homeless people in Bristol.

BHAM is actively seeking further information on what St Mungos and the UK Borders Agency are up to in Bristol.  If you have any details please let us know.

6 comments:

  1. Last night we went to a location where rough sleepers have long been tolerated and many of our friends and associates have slept from time-to-time. It's on private land, normally there's about five to ten people sleeping there. The land owner is ok with homeless people sleeping in the big poly tunnel and open-sided shed as long as they don't cause a mess or nuisance.

    It was deserted. There were no sleeping bags or blankets left in the stash spots. This was one of the sites we know St Mungos and the UK Borders Agency have been hitting regularly. Everyone has fled, almost certainly to less sheltered and more dangerous places.

    We've been told the raids are usually between 5am and 7am.

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  2. We've also been told one rough sleeper was detained during the raids and then released with a court date up-coming. We're trying to find out more about this.

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  3. We caught up with our original source and double-checked the story with him. He gave a different version of events.

    St Mungos outreach workers visited the site he was sleeping three times in the week before it was raided by UK Border Agency. This was unusual, they usually only visit about once a week.

    His only connection to St Mungos is he uses their building, the Compass Centre, as his care of address. Next time he went to collect his mail he claims St Mungos staff knew some personal information they could only have got by talking to the UK Border Agency.

    While both of these things may be true - and they may not be - it doesn't amount to his original claim that St Mungos staff accompanied UK Border Agency officers on raids. They did not.

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. No, you were right - they really *are* grassing up the homeless to immigration cops:

      https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/mar/07/charities-giving-home-office-details-of-rough-sleepers-says-report

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  4. "We caught up with our original source and double-checked the story with him. He gave a different version of events."
    Richard. This is really damaging if its slurring another organisation trying to help the homeless in Bristol.
    Can't you at least add a question mark to the headline?

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