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KCL Plans to Enclose Greenwood Theatre Alcove Used by Homeless Sleepers

Photo Courtesy of Emma Carmichael

The Greenwood Theatre, by King’s College London’s (KCL) Guy’s Campus, is having a sheltered outdoor space closed-off after complaints of rough sleeping.

KCL submitted a planning application for “the enclosure of the lobby” to Southwark Council in January, proposing to close the alcove which is currently used by the homeless. The design statement for the extension stated that the alcove is currently used by “vagrants and those using drugs”. The document also stated that “KCL’s staff are constantly having to clean the lobby and remove hypodermic syringes, needles, and other drug related items, which is obviously a hazard to the staff”.

When Roar visited the site on the evening of 12 February, it was occupied by two sleeping homeless people. The alcove was found vacant during multiple daytime visits in early February.

In consultations, Theatres Trust supported KCL’s application for planning permission. They said that KCL has “set out compelling need and justification for these works” as the fire exit’s recess “gives rise to criminal and anti-social behaviour which in turn results in additional burden and risk to the theatre’s staff”. Theatres Trust also noted that the obstruction of the fire exit by homeless sleepers “compromises the venue’s fire safety”.

In a statement given to Roar, a KCL spokesperson said that “fire safety and regulations” require that the exit is clear at all times “to allow our students and staff to exit quickly in the event of an emergency”.

The statement from KCL continued:

“We are committed to helping address the challenge of homelessness by working directly with charities and organisations, such as Providence Row and Under One Sky, and through our research, including the Homelessness Research Programme, which looks to understand the health and social care needs of homeless people, develop ways in which they can be supported and to influence policy to ultimately help prevent and alleviate homelessness.”

Roar spoke to Angela Chen, President of KCL On The Streets, a student society dedicated to reaching out to the homeless community on the streets of London. While KCL On The Streets declined to comment on the specifics of KCL’s plans at the Greenwood Theatre, Chen argued that “KCL should take a more proactive stance in supporting the homeless community and addressing the issue of homelessness”.

“Unfortunately, homelessness is on the rise, and not only have we experienced this in the increasing numbers of people we come across on our outreaches, but the CHAIN 22/23 (Combined Homelessness and Information Network) reports show that there has been a 21% increase in rough sleepers just this year, with at least 10,000 people sleeping rough in London alone.”

Angela Chen, President of KCL On The Streets

“Rather than merely reacting to the problem,” stated Chen, “we urge KCL to adopt preventative measures and actively engage in initiatives that contribute to the reduction of homelessness.” She continued, “we expect KCL, as an institution, to play a more significant role in caring for our local community, aligning its actions with the principles it has set for itself.”

For more of Roar’s coverage on homelessness, click here.

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