The Conservative government’s Home Secretary has announced she plans to introduce new penalties in England and Wales for homeless people who authorities believe have rejected offers of help. Her views have already seen widespread backlash from charities and politicians from opposing parties.
Suella Braverman took to X - formerly Twitter - writing: "Nobody in Britain should be living in a tent on our streets. There are options for people who don't want to be sleeping rough."
She claimed that the government would always support those who are genuinely homeless, but added that: "we cannot allow our streets to be taken over by rows of tents occupied by people, many of them from abroad, living on the streets as a lifestyle choice."
Braverman added: "What I want to stop, and what the law abiding majority wants us to stop, is those who cause nuisance and distress to other people by pitching tents in public spaces, aggressively begging, stealing, taking drugs, littering and blighting our communities."
The 43-year-old went on to say that, unless ‘action’ is taken, "British cities will go the way of places in the US like San Francisco and Los Angeles, where weak policies have led to an explosion of crime, drug taking and squalor."
Her comments attracted immediate condemnation, with housing charity Shelter leading the criticism.
On X, they wrote: “living on the streets is not a ‘lifestyle choice’ - it is a sign of failed government policy. No one should be punished for being homeless. Criminalising people for sleeping in tents, and making it an offence for charities to help them, is unacceptable.”
Also on X, Labour's deputy leader, Angela Rayner wrote that, “rough sleeping is not a “lifestyle choice”.’
Accusing the Conservatives of blaming homeless people for their unpopularity rather than taking accountability for their own actions, she added: “A toxic mix of rising rents and failure to end no-fault evictions is hitting vulnerable people. After years of delay the Tories are failing on their promises.”
London’s Mayor, Sadiq Khan, called the government’s attitude to ‘vulnerable people’ sleeping on the streets of the capital and elsewhere “deeply depressing”.
Braverman’s plan is expected to be included in King Charles’ speech on Tuesday. The address sets out the government's legislative agenda and, this year more than ever, is expected to focus heavily on law and order.
The Financial Times newspaper reports that her proposals are designed to replace elements of a 1824 Vagrancy Act.
Tents which cause a ‘nuisance’ - like those obstructing shop doorways - could be targeted and charities could be fined for handing out tents if they are deemed to have caused such a ‘burden’.