Suella Braverman yesterday rejected criticism of her plans to stop homeless people from pitching tents to sleep rough on the streets.
Arguing that many on the streets currently see living in tents as a ‘lifestyle choice’, the Home Secretary has proposed new penalties in England and Wales for homeless people who authorities believe have rejected offers of help.
She was met with fierce resistance from homeless charities, who accused her of punishing those who are already suffering in poverty.
But she told Sky News yesterday: ‘We must do everything necessary to support those who are genuinely homeless – but we must not go down the same route as some cities in the US such as San Francisco and Seattle, where living in a tent has become a lifestyle choice.
‘It cannot be right that parts of our cities are ruined and blighted by the sight and use of tents.’
The number of people estimated to be sleeping rough on a single night in England in autumn 2022 was 3,069, according to government figures – an increase of more than a quarter since 2021.
Tory MP Sally Ann-Hart, vice-chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on homelessness, said: ‘We should not be seeing people sleeping on our streets – this is completely unacceptable in a wealthy country like the UK. I would want to know the circumstances of these people – why are they not seeking the support they need?’
She added: ‘I see the Home Secretary’s point; we need to get a real grip on this situation for the rough sleepers’ sake and for the general public. This must involve a zero-tolerance approach.’
Last night charities rallied against the plans and dismissed Mrs Braverman’s comments as misguided.
Matt Downie, chief executive of homelessness charity Crisis, said: ‘We don’t have nearly enough affordable homes, rents are soaring, and this is leaving people destitute and forced to sleep rough. This is a consequence of poverty – and poverty in this country has been exacerbated by policy choices.’
Shelter chief executive Polly Neate said: ‘Nobody should be punished for being homeless. Homelessness happens when housing policy fails.’