“No one should be punished for being homeless."
Just when you thought that the Tories couldn’t go any lower, Suella Braverman comes up with yet more disgraceful comments aimed at vulnerable people.
The Home Secretary has described rough sleeping as a ‘lifestyle choice’, sparking widespread backlash among opposition MPs and charities.
Braverman made the comments as she announced her intention to crack down on the pitching of tents in urban areas, which she largely blamed on individuals ‘from abroad’. She posted on X, formerly Twitter: “The British people are compassionate. We will always support those who are genuinely homeless. But 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.
“Unless we step in now to stop this, 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.”
Homeless charity Shelter slammed Braverman for ‘punishing’ people for being homeless. It posted in response to Braverman’s comments: “Let’s make it clear: 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.”
Charities and organisations such as Crisis, Centrepoint, St Mungo’s and Pathway and the Chartered Institute of Housing wrote an open letter to Braverman condemning her proposals to criminalise the use of tents by people sleeping rough.
The letter states: “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.”
Alastair Campbell posted in response to Braverman’s comments: “What a disgusting government we have. And she – deliberately – seeks to be the most disgusting of all of them. Because that is how to become leader when Sunak is gone. Awful awful people wrecking a once great country.”
Basit Mahmood is editor of Left Foot Forward