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Letter to Editor: Crime and anti-social behaviour at the Oasis Hotel in Old Harlow

News / Fri 16th Nov 2018 at 12:06pm

Dear Sir,

Crime and antisocial behaviour at the Oasis Hotel

IT HAS been another eventful weekend at the Oasis. Commuters emerging from Harlow Mill station on Friday evening were greeted by immigration enforcement vans on what seemed to be a significant raid. Saturday afternoon saw four police cars parked up in the Oasis car park, blue lights flashing. Again tonight, there’s a police car parked outside.

It would be unfair to judge an establishment on one bad weekend. This could happen to anyone. Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. On average, the police visit the Oasis every four days. Over the last couple of years, a variety of crimes have been linked to the Oasis and its residents. Everything from antisocial behaviour, to drug offences, burglary, criminal damage and even violent and sexual offences.

So what could lead to a hotel having such problems? The fact is that the Oasis isn’t being used just as a hotel. The Oasis is used as temporary accommodation by at least 14 different local authorities.

When people have the misfortune to find themselves homeless, it is a good thing that their local council will find them somewhere to stay temporarily until a longer term solution can be found. That being said, it is questionable how much people being housed at the Oasis are actually being helped.

Many of the people housed at the Oasis have what could be described as ‘complex needs’. Issues with addiction, mental health problems, a history of offending, either petty or serious. People with these issues need appropriate help from trained professionals.

When they are ‘temporarily’ (in some cases for months) housed in a place 20, 30, even 50 miles from home, they don’t have access to this help. They’re too far from their own council to be able to access their services and they don’t qualify for help from Harlow council, because they’re still under the care of another authority.

If you have addictions and mental health problems and you find yourself abandoned, miles from home, in squalid conditions (if Tripadvisor reviews are to be believed) and surrounded by dozens of other addicts, would you get better? Is this any way for anyone to recover and restart their lives?

The answer clearly is no. These vulnerable people, abandoned by local authorities seeking to avoid their duty of care, return to old patterns, to old habits, to old crimes. Groups can often be seen in nearby streets and alleys, the train station, bus stops, parks; they’re drinking from early morning, taking drugs, intimidating passers by and from there, inevitably, crime arises.

Maybe these councils are unaware of the conditions in which they are sending people to live. Maybe they don’t know what harm they’re doing.

I have made them aware.

I sent each council a full copy of my research, pointing out in detail what is going on. A few councils expressed concern and committed to avoiding use of the Oasis in future. The majority, however, including the bigger customers, don’t care. They know what is happening and they don’t care.

The two biggest customers of the Oasis are our neighbours in Epping and Broxbourne. Both have these councils have specifically said that they have inspected the Oasis and find the conditions to be perfectly acceptable. In the case of Epping Forest District Council, this statement came all the way from the top, a personal response from Acting Chief Executive, Derek Macnab. Strangely, when I offered to pay for Mr Macnab to spend a night in the perfectly acceptable accommodation at the Oasis, he never got back to me. The offer is still open and I would like to take this opportunity to extend it to the Chief Executives of any other councils still housing people at the Oasis.

Nobody wants to take responsibility. They all say there’s nothing they can do.

All I can say is, when you’re worrying about the increasing crime rates in our town and wondering why there’s never a police officer around when you need one, it because they’re all busy, dealing with the Oasis.

Regards

Rob Robson

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