London, June 4: A London borough has introduced fines of up to USD 1,535 for people sleeping in the streets in areas popular with the city's "hipster" community, causing outrage among homeless charities.
Hackney's Public Space Protection Orders, targeted at anti-social behaviour, give police and local authority officers the power to issue fines of £100 which can rise to £1,000 in the event of non-payment.
A petition on the change.org website, entitled "Stop criminalising Hackney's rough sleepers", attracted more than 30,000 signatories. "It is absurd to impose a fine of £1,000 on somebody who is already homeless and struggling.
People should not be punished for the 'crime' of not having a roof over their head," it read. The orders apply to five areas, which also include London Fields, Regents Canal and Broadway Market.
But Hackney Council said the point of the move was to push people into accepting help.
The measure "is designed to tackle a handful of entrenched rough sleepers who have repeatedly resisted all attempts to house them and help them," Councillor Sophie Linden said.
'Absurd to impose a fine of £1,000 on somebody who is homeless'
They are "causing serious problems for other residents with anti-social behaviour including drug use, drunkenness, public urination and defecation, and threatening behaviour".
Often, "the threat of legal action has been the push that has persuaded them to seek the help that they so desperately need".
In June 2014, anti-rough sleeper spikes were installed in a sheltered area outside a block of flats in another part of London, causing an uproar. Charities estimate there are around 6,500 people sleeping rough in London.
The British capital has a population of 8.6 million.