U.K. politician explains stance on homeless ahead of royal wedding

Last Updated Jan 12, 2018 9:00 AM EST

LONDON – A local politician in the Royal Borough of Windsor, where Britain's Prince Harry and American actress Meghan Markle are to be married in May, has defended earlier comments in which he said "aggressive begging" should be tackled ahead of the royal wedding.

"There is a growing concern amongst residents, businesses and visitors regarding the number of people occupying the streets of Windsor, who are begging during the day and in some cases taking occupancy throughout the night," Simon Dudley said in a letter to the local Police and Crime Commissioner on January 2.

Dudley's comments generated controversy, with some local activists calling it "sickening" that he had referred to the royal wedding as a cause of his concern.

"If somebody is sleeping out on the street, they are not there by choice. They are there because something has gone wrong," Windsor Homeless Project manager Murphy James told the BBC.

Tracy, who sleeps on Windsor's main road, Thames Street, told CBS News that she was upset by the way homeless people were being treated in the Royal Borough.

"We're not here because we like being here. It's just, you know, due to circumstances. Everybody's got a different story as to why they're homeless, you know, and because of this royal wedding, that's why they want to airbrush us out of the way," she said.

"We want (Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's) wedding to be as lovely and grand as they want it to be," Tracy continued. "We don't want to be here like this. We don't want to put shame on them, you know? We want to be part of it as well, you know, whether we're homeless or not."

British Prime Minister Theresa May said she did not agree with Dudley's letter, and an online petition was set up on January 4 demanding the call to clear Windsor's streets of homeless people by the date of the royal wedding be withdrawn. At time of writing, it had received nearly 232,000 signatures.

On Wednesday, Dudley told the BBC that his comments had been misunderstood.

"At no point have I said 'move on the homeless,'" Dudley told the BBC.

"The key thing is to draw the distinction between homelessness – which is an abomination in a civilized society – and anti-social behaviour, which is a very bad and deteriorating situation in Windsor," he continued.

There are "those who clearly come into Windsor, are not homeless, they have homes, they have begging pitches, and they will be there with their commercial activity of begging, throughout the day, later on into the evening, and then they get trains home, taxis home to wherever they live," he said.

"I've got reports from e-mails, from old ladies in Windsor saying they feel unsafe walking home at night from the theater, got reports of young girls walking in the street who've been asked for money and they've only got a pound on them and they've been told 'go to the cash point and you can get cash out.'"