8 November 2023
Change Grow Live today backed the calls of housing charities (Crisis and other organisations, ‘Open letter to the Home Secretary’, 6 Nov) for the Home Secretary to urgently reconsider her proposal to criminalise the use of tents by people who sleep rough.
We also want to underline that rough sleeping is not a ‘lifestyle choice’ in any meaningful sense. It is a consequence of life experiences, and a lack of support and resources to respond to these, which is frequently coupled with extreme poverty, and limited or non-existent housing and employment options.
We know from our work that people who sleep rough have often experienced significant trauma including neglect, abuse, and exploitation. Our experience tells us that to effectively tackle homelessness and associated issues of substance use, an approach of compassion and understanding, along with rapid access to specialist support and accommodation, is needed.
If we criminalise or restrict people from sleeping in tents in city centres, we will simply displace, and not resolve, the issue of people sleeping rough. Homeless people will become ‘hidden’ and less likely to access support agencies in the centre of town, which puts vulnerable people at risk of illnesses, harm, and exploitation, including by criminal gangs.
Thirty-three Change Grow Live outreach services work directly with people who sleep rough. We invite Ministers to join our outreach teams to see where the real challenges lie for people experiencing homelessness and for the services who support them.