The Mayor of London is yet to respond to a petition calling for an end to the ‘deeply dehumanising’ anti-begging announcements on the city’s Underground. The announcements stigmatise the homeless and discourage wealthy commuters from addressing the issue of poverty, the petition claims.
For those who haven’t heard them, they warn commuters that ‘beggars and buskers are operating on this train.’ They then ask that people ‘not encourage their presence by supporting them.’ Georgia Elander, 23, began the petition after she was ‘shocked’ to hear one last weekend.
Speaking to Voice, Elander said that the language of the announcements, which typically play at night in central areas, align homelessness with criminality, pointing out that terms like ‘operate’ usually refer to ‘thieves and scammers rather than people who are vulnerable and desperate.’
Since its creation last Monday, over 18,000 people have signed the petition to support the removal of the announcements. The petition comes as figures from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government show a 165% rise in homelessness since 2010, with rough sleeping rising 13% in London.
On Wednesday, the TfL confirmed in a statement to metro.co.uk that they are already in the process of changing their announcements ‘to encourage people to donate charity, rather than giving directly to those that are sleeping rough on the transport network.’
While Elander says this is a step in the right direction, she believes that the issue is more complex and extends beyond a matter of wording, adding that ‘tacking on a “please give to charity instead” to these kinds of announcements isn’t good enough.’
‘The announcements as a whole – and the attitudes behind them – are the problem. Anything which encourages commuters to ignore, or to treat with this kind of disdain, the people who are begging or busking on trains is part of a wider problem with how we treat people who are less fortunate than us.’
‘I think it’s all part of a bigger conversation about gentrification. If I could sum it up in a word, I think that would be it. Yes, it’s one announcement but it’s really symptomatic of a wider issue about London and who the city is for.’
I think it’s all part of a bigger conversation about gentrification.
At the time of writing, Elander is yet to receive a response from the Mayor of London, Sadiq Kahn, to whom the petition is addressed. She says that she is disappointed not to have heard from him and has renewed her call for a response.
‘We still want a response from Sadiq. I addressed this petition specifically to Sadiq Kahn as he presides over TfL. He’s a Labour politician who has spoken about the ills of austerity, inequality and the consequences of those policies, which include people being homeless.
‘It’s particularly disappointing that he’s happy to see these announcements run. I would love the opportunity to speak with Sadiq about the issue, about why so many people feel this is not an appropriate way to speak about people, and to see what we can do going forward.
‘If we really thought about the human tragedy that is every person who had to sleep on the streets, we would have a much more urgent conversation about homelessness. We wouldn’t see it as one on a list of issues. We would see it as the country’s number one priority to get everyone a home.’