As many as 41 homeless people were reportedly kicked out of a shopping complex located in Newham, East London in the early hours of 29 January (Monday).
The sleepers were given just five minutes to vacate the Stratford Centre, according to a report in the Mirror Online. The homeless sleepers were allegedly told to move out due to some electrical work taking place in the centre, and were later handed community protection notice, which accused the group of "anti-social behaviour".
Newham Council confirmed to Mirror that officers spoke with 41 people, informing them that the centre would remain closed for three weeks. While 12 people left the spot voluntarily, 29 people, who refused to vacate, were handed the notices and forced to get out.
The notice says that the group's "waste accumulation, littering and causing concern as a result of loitering, sleeping or bedding down is of detriment to the local area". It also states that failure to comply with the notice could result in prosecution and a fine of up to £20,000 ($28,078).
Lorraine Tabone, who runs Lola's Homeless, a charity that helps rough sleepers in the borough of Newham, said that the group have slept in the mall for at least two and a half years and that the council had no right to boot them out.
Tabone said, "They [The council] gave the excuse that they were closing the shopping centre for three weeks to carry out maintenance on the electrics. But then they slapped them with the community protection notice and told them to leave within five minutes."
"They have treated them like criminals and they haven't done anything wrong." Lorraine also shared that the shopping centre is one of the only secure places in the area where homeless people can rest for the night without fearing for their life.
She said, "When they are in that shopping centre, they are safe. It's a wonder none of them got shot, having to leave and roam the streets at 4.30am."
"Don't get me wrong, they're not all saints. I tell them off all the time. But they are all vulnerable, and they need a safe place to sleep. The situation is out of control," she added.