Death of disabled homeless man prompts Leicester camp protest in New Walk

The death of a rough-sleeper in a shop doorway has prompted a city homeless campaigner to renew his makeshift camp protest off Leicester’s most historic street.

James McLean has set up a number of tents in Oval Gardens, off New Walk.

It is the latest of a series of camps, the 38-year-old has pitched in public spaces, which he says are “safe spaces” for the city’s rough sleepers.

Those protests have seen him served with an injunction banning him from setting up encampments in Jubilee Square, Town Hall Square and around the Clock Tower.

He has spent weeks at a time camped out to make his point, although Leicester City Council – which sought the injunction – has described him as a “serial protester” whose camps intimidate passers-by and cause anti-social behaviour.

Mr McLean, who is not homeless himself, told the Mercury: “I’m protesting again because of the lack of help and support for people who have to sleep on the street. It is costing lives.”

Mr McLean said he was motivated by the death of a homeless man in Evington Road last month, who was sleeping in the doorway of a Co-op store.

He said: “He was disabled and homeless. In this country we should not be in a position where such vulnerable people are dying in the street.”

Mr McLean said set up his camp last Friday and then dismantled it, only to return when two people he knew were asked to leave the Dawn Centre homelessness hostel in Conduit Street.

The pair have now joined him sleeping in Oval Gardens.

James McLean has set up a number of tents in Oval Gardens, off New Walk.

It is the latest of a series of camps, the 38-year-old has pitched in public spaces, which he says are “safe spaces” for the city’s rough sleepers.
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One of the tents

Those protests have seen him served with an injunction banning him from setting up encampments in Jubilee Square, Town Hall Square and around the Clock Tower.

Read more: Labour suspends Leicester councillor from party over ‘rule breach’ allegation

He has spent weeks at a time camped out to make his point, although Leicester City Council – which sought the injunction – has described him as a “serial protester” whose camps intimidate passers-by and cause anti-social behaviour.

Mr McLean, who is not homeless himself, told the Mercury: “I’m protesting again because of the lack of help and support for people who have to sleep on the street. It is costing lives.”

Mr McLean said he was motivated by the death of a homeless man in Evington Road last month, who was sleeping in the doorway of a Co-op store.

He said: “He was disabled and homeless. In this country we should not be in a position where such vulnerable people are dying in the street.”

Mr McLean said set up his camp last Friday and then dismantled it, only to return when two people he knew were asked to leave the Dawn Centre homelessness hostel in Conduit Street.

The pair have now joined him sleeping in Oval Gardens.

Read more: Soulsby: 20,000 of Leicester’s poorest homes will not have to pay more council tax

Mr McLean said: “I chose Oval Gardens because I have an injunction stopping me from protesting in other places.

“It’s a public garden and it’s fenced off, so it has some security.

“I was being attacked in my other camps and my tents were being pulled down.

“Here we are very visible to a lot of council workers coming to and from work as well as the barristers heading to the crown court.

“It’s a good place to send a message.”

The council is seeking to remove Mr McLean’s latest camp.

A city council spokeswoman said: “”We are committed to ensuring that no-one sleeping rough has to spend a second night on the streets and we have a wide-ranging homeless strategy, together with our partners, which aims to reduce rough sleeping and homelessness.

“Sometime people sleeping rough refuse our help, but in those cases we do keep trying to assist them and offer our services where we can.

“Mr McLean has previously acknowledged that he has a home and is not homeless. This is the latest in a series of protests which the council has had to manage at considerable expense.

“Action will be taken to remove the tents and equipment from The Oval, which have been set up contrary to our parks bylaws.”

Source: http://m.leicestermercury.co.uk/death-of-disabled-homeless-man-prompts-new-makeshift-camp-protest-off-leicester-s-historic-new-walk/story-30440776-detail/story.html

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