Anti-begging announcements on the Underground only serve to dehumanise the homeless and give wealthy commuters an excuse to ignore the issue of poverty, a campaigner has claimed.
If you’ve never heard them, they typically play at night warning people that ‘beggars and buskers are operating on this train’.
The announcement then tells passengers not to ‘encourage their presence by supporting them’.
Georgia Elander, 23, believes the language used by Transport for London aligns homeless people with criminality.
She says they are forced to beg as a last resort, not because it’s an attractive or lucrative activity.
‘I think the language of the announcements is really stigmatising,’ she told metro.co.uk. ‘For example, using the word “operate” is the same kind of language you’d use to talk about thieves or scammers.
‘It really encourages the attitude that if we stop giving money to people begging, they’ll go away – when obviously the only real way to tackle the problem is to end poverty and deprivation.’
Research from the homeless charity Shelter in November found over half of the country’s homeless population are living in London.
Nearly 170,000 people are roughing it in the capital alone, as record numbers sleep on the streets or in the cramped confines of a hostel room, the charity’s study found.
Georgia says these people have been ‘badly let down by the system’ and instead of treating them like a ‘nuisance to be ignored’, we should show them our ‘support and compassion’.
She added: ‘I honestly can’t imagine how it feels to not only be in the horrific position of having nowhere to call home, but also to feel that so many people around you see you as a nuisance or a threat.’
She is calling on TfL and the mayor Sadiq Khan to stop ‘overseeing such a heartless policy on London’s Tube network’.
Centrepoint’s Paul Noblet said it’s important to remember that homelessness and begging are not the same thing and it is ‘not helpful to conflate the two’.
But he said TfL have ‘missed an opportunity’ to remind commuters that there are many ways they can help homeless people.
He said: ‘Donating money or food is always a matter of personal choice, but what is not in dispute is that every year in London thousands of young people approach their local council for help because they have nowhere else to go.
‘If buskers and beggars are disrupting customer journeys then TfL has every right to tackle the issue, but it seems a missed opportunity not to suggest ways in which the public can help.
‘StreetLink and Centrepoint run national helplines for homeless people, and the Mayor’s office has a Homelessness Fund that supports projects across London.
‘We encourage TfL to signpost commuters towards these positive ways to make a difference.’
Georgia has started a petition calling for the announcements to be ‘immediately removed’ and it has already been signed by 13,000 people in just two days.