Written by Kenna Young, April 2024

Representatives from Two Saints, MPs and one representative from Homeless Link standing on steps and holding up signs from Homeless Link's manifesto title 'A Home for Everyone'

As a sector, there was a sigh of relief last February, when it seemed the Vagrancy Act 1824 would be no more. This Act was nearly 200 years old and incredibly outdated. However, the Criminal Justice Bill looks to take its place and would see a continuation of the total lack of respect or empathy for those experiencing homelessness.

If the Bill is finalised it could see people being given fines for ‘nuisance’ rough sleeping, even if someone hasn’t slept rough but looks like they might be, they could be issued the fine. This is discrimination and will lead to someone’s appearance informing a decision. Someone is a ‘nuisance’ if they are sleeping in a doorway, if they have an ‘excessive smell’ or use ‘insulting words.’ 

As an organisation we work hard at Two Saints to ensure clients are central to all we do, taking a person-centred approach to our engagement and support. This bill will see law enforcement dehumanise clients who are rough sleeping and action taken will be based on opinion – what is an ‘excessive smell’ or ‘insulting words’ to one person may be perceived very differently by another.

These actions will not support clients to access the right support and safe accommodation. It will likely create a greater barrier for them to engage with services. The fine could be up to £2,500 – do you know anyone experiencing homelessness that could afford to pay a fine like this? A fine will not provide a home, so where do they expect them to move on to? To support those at risk of homelessness we need all services to take a prevention focused approach, this is where the energy should be.

“To support those at risk of homelessness we need all services to take a prevention focused approach.”

It has been reassuring to see many MPs are against the Bill, we need them to focus on providing the right support to councils and charities like us to deliver affordable and safe housing options for all.

If you’d like to know more about the Bill and how to lobby your local MP to stop it getting through the Committee Stage in its current form, please visit Crisis’ petition: Tell your MP: none of us should be criminalised for being homeless | Crisis UK 

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