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Open letter to Home Secretary Suella Braverman on Government proposals to criminalise the use of tents by people sleeping rough

5 November 2023

Dear Home Secretary,

cc Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities

As organisations supporting people experiencing homelessness, we are writing to ask you to urgently reconsider proposals to criminalise the use of tents by people sleeping rough as a replacement for the draconian 1824 Vagrancy Act.

Working on the frontline of the homelessness crisis, we know all too well the risk to life these punitive laws present, and how they only serve to push people further into destitution. We are calling for an urgent reversal of this decision if the government wants to prevent people from dying on our streets, exposed to the cold and all the hardship that rough sleeping entails.

Sleeping on the street is not a lifestyle choice. Laying blame with people forced to sleep rough will only push people further away from help into poverty, putting them at risk of exploitation. At the extreme end we will see an increase in deaths and fatalities which are totally preventable.

People sleeping rough frequently experience violence and abuse. The impact on their physical and mental health is significant. The average age of death for people experiencing homelessness is just 45 for men and 43 for women. This is not a life people choose.

There is much more that can be done to tackle rough sleeping, and ending it for good is completely achievable. We urge you to focus on housing solutions to prevent homelessness and rough sleeping, investing in interventions like Housing First which helps people into safe, secure housing combined with wraparound services so people can remain off the streets. These are models that are proven to work.

In the short-term, increasing housing benefit at the Autumn Statement so people can afford their rent must also be part of the solution. Alongside this, there needs to be a reversal of the recent changes to asylum-seeker policy which are resulting in people granted settled status being evicted within a matter of days, pushing them into rough sleeping and other forms of homelessness.

We strongly urge you to reconsider these measures, which will result in harm to thousands of people who have no option but to sleep in a tent, or on the streets, as they have no home of their own. Removing the only protection many people depend on and endangering lives cannot be the answer. We remain willing to work with you and the government on genuine solutions to end rough sleeping for good, but these changes gravely undermine any efforts to do so.

Kind regards,

Matt Downie MBE, CEO, Crisis

Gavin Smart, CEO, Chartered Institute of Housing

Seyi Obakin OBE, CEO, Centrepoint

Katie Dalton, Director, Cymorth Cymru

Jean Templeton, CEO, St Basils and Chair of the WMCA Homelessness Taskforce

Rick Henderson, CEO, Homeless Link

Kate Henderson, CEO, National Housing Federation

Alex Bax, CEO, Pathway

Pam Orchard, CEO, The Connection at St Martin in the Fields

Mick Clarke, CEO, The Passage

Emma Haddad, CEO, St Mungo’s

Michael Chandler, CEO, Groundswell

Bridget Young, Director, NACCOM

Amanda Dubarry, CEO, Your Place

Enver Solomon, CEO, The Refugee Council