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Scrap the Vagrancy Act

What is the Vagrancy Act?

The Vagrancy Act is a piece of legislation that makes it a criminal offence to sleep rough or beg in England and Wales. It was initially passed 200 years ago in response to increasing numbers of people experiencing homelessness and poverty. 

Punishing people simply for not having a home has no place in 21st century Britain. We thought we'd seen the back of these outdated laws when the Vagrancy Act was repealed. 

But now the UK Government is looking to reintroduce the worst parts of the Act with new laws, using the Criminal Justice Bill.

Tell your MP: None of us should be criminalised for being homeless

The UK Government is trying to recriminalise homelessness in England and Wales.

If passed, the Criminal Justice Bill would mean people who are homeless in England and Wales could face fines or even prison for so-called ‘nuisance’ rough sleeping.

The Bill is being debated in the UK Parliament right now. Together, we can stop these plans – but we need MPs to speak out against it.

Will you email your MP asking them to help stop these cruel and unnecessary plans?


Email your MP now

Why we campaigned against the Vagrancy Act

A white man is sitting on some steps. A woman in police uniform is talking to him

Since 1824, the Vagrancy Act has made it a crime just to sleep rough or beg in England and Wales.

Criminalisation does nothing to resolve the root causes of homelessness. In fact, it's more likely to push someone further away from the vital services that help them to move away from the streets.

Thanks to our campaigning and your actions, Westminster voted to repeal the Act in 2022. But the Act has not yet been fully repealed, meaning it’s still technically in force.

What’s worse, the UK Government is trying to introduce replacement legislation, via the Criminal Justice Bill, that could impose fines of up to £2,500 - or even prison - just for being homeless. This is unacceptable.

The fact that homelessness exists in 2024 is a failure of Government policy. This Bill would criminalise and dehumanise those of us that have been failed by a system that should keep all of us safe.

The Vagrancy Act must be fully repealed without new laws that criminalise people who are homeless.


The Criminal Justice Bill explained

If passed, the UK Government’s Criminal Justice Bill would impose fines – or even prison – on people who are homeless in England and Wales for so-called ‘nuisance’ rough sleeping.

The Bill says someone could be considered a ‘nuisance’ if they are sleeping in a doorway, if they have ‘excessive smell’, or even if they simply ‘look like they are intending to’ sleep on the streets.

This dehumanises those of us who are forced into sleeping on the streets. Poverty pushes people into homelessness, so this will only make it harder for people to access the support they need.

People often sleep in doorways to seek some protection against the dangers of sleeping on the streets. This Bill could criminalise people simply for trying to keep themselves safe.

We should treat people who are homeless with dignity and humanity – not with the threat of police action.


Find out more about the Bill

Watch: Crisis at Christmas guests and volunteers on the Vagrancy Act

"It's outrageous. Appalling." "A poor reflection on society."

Watch the reaction of Crisis at Christmas guests and volunteers to finding out about the Vagrancy Act - the centuries-old law that criminalised rough sleeping.

We all fought hard to scrap the Vagrancy Act. But now we need to fight again to stop proposals to reintroduce these archaic laws under a new name. 

Explore the case for repealing the Vagrancy Act

This report, published in 2019 looks at the case for repealing the Vagrancy Act 1824 in England and Wales.

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