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Letter to Home Secretary James Cleverly on Government proposals to criminalise rough sleeping

Dear Home Secretary

In 2022 the government declared that there is “a moral imperative to end rough sleeping and to end it for good”.

As organisations that work with people who have experienced homelessness, we agree. A wide range of factors, from the lack of truly affordable homes to the rising cost of living, can quickly force people into homelessness and onto the streets. Sleeping rough is dangerous and terrifying: recent research found that nine out of 10 people who survive without a safe roof over their heads are subject to violence and abuse.

We recognise the steps that your government has taken to address rough sleeping. After committing in its manifesto to end rough sleeping by the end of this year, the government has put £2bn behind a rough sleeping strategy in England. The Chancellor recently restored local housing allowance rates, which will help many more people afford their rent.

Measures in the new Criminal Justice Bill, however, will undermine these commitments. The Bill proposes fines and prison terms for people in England and Wales who are considered a ‘nuisance’ when rough sleeping.

Under the terms of the Bill, this includes people who look like they have slept rough, or who merely ‘intend’ to do so.

It could see women, who are disproportionately likely to suffer violence and sexual abuse on the streets, penalised for seeking shelter and safety in well-lit doorways. It could see a fine of £2,500 issued to a person carrying an ‘excessive smell’.

To support people away from rough sleeping, we must establish trust between the authorities and those on the streets and find ways to connect people in unsafe situations with stable housing and support. The threat of fines and prison risks the opposite – stigmatising those forced to sleep rough, and pushing them away from help and into more dangerous environments.

As your government looks to meet its manifesto commitment to end rough sleeping by the end of this year, we urge you to reconsider these plans. Ending homelessness in a kind and person-centred way is an endeavour that should unite us all.

Matt Downie, Chief Executive, Crisis

Kerry Moscogiuri, Campaigns and Communications Director, Amnesty UK

Kimberley Glendenning, Head of Public Affairs, Big Issue Group

Seyi Obakin, CEO, Centrepoint

Gavin Smart, Chief Executive, Chartered Institute for Housing

Katie Dalton, Director, Cymorth Cymru

Alexia Murphy, CEO, Depaul UK

Charlotte Talbott, Chief Executive, Emmaus UK

Ben Twomey, Chief Executive, Generation Rent

Jo Carter, CEO, Glass Door Homeless Charity

Michael Chandler, Chief Executive, Groundswell

Rick Henderson, Chief Executive, Homeless Link

Tim Nelson, CEO, Hope for Justice

Bonnie Williams, Chief Executive, Housing Justice

Fiona Rutherford, Chief Executive, Justice

Simon Gale, Chief Executive, Justlife

Sam Grant, Advocacy Director, Liberty

Sam Austin, Deputy Chief Executive, LLamau

Bridget Young, Director, NACCOM

Kate Henderson, CEO, National Housing Federation

Alex Bax, Chief Executive, Pathway

Niamh Eastwood, Executive Director, Release

Dr Laura Neilson, Chief Executive, Shared Health

Polly Neate, CEO, Shelter

Liz Rutherford, CEO, Single Homeless Project

Jean Templeton, Chief Executive, St Basils

Emma Haddad, Chief Executive, St Mungo’s

Peter Stephenson, Director, St Petrock’s

Antonia May Cross, Head of Influencing, Switchback

Alicja Zalesinska, Chief Executive, Tai Pawb

Pam Orchard, Chief Executive, The Connection

Mick Clarke, Chief Executive, The Passage

Nick Redmore, Director of Homelessness Services, The Salvation Army

Sian Aldridge, Interim Chief Executive, The Wallich

Jayni Gudka, CEO, Unseen Tours

Denise Hatton, Chief Executive, YMCA England & Wales

Amanda Dubarry, Chief Executive, Your Place