Braverman claims rough sleeping is 'lifestyle choice' amid plans to crack down on street tents

Suella Braverman has prompted outrage by describing rough sleeping as a "lifestyle choice'" and by considering banning tents in urban areas, ITV News' Vincent McAviney reports

Suella Braverman has claimed rough sleeping is a "lifestyle choice" amid plans to restrict the use of tents used by homeless people on the streets.

The home secretary has vowed to put a stop to "aggressive begging" as she accused rough sleepers of causing "nuisance and distress to other people by pitching tents in public places".

In a thread shared to X, formerly known as Twitter, Ms Braverman claimed many rough sleepers are "from abroad" and that there was no need to live on the streets, suggesting there are plenty of alternative options.

Ms Braverman shared the comments along with a Financial Times article reporting on her plans to introduce restrictions on the use of tents in urban environments, including fining charities for handing out tents if they're deemed to have caused a nuisance.

Homelessness charity Shelter hit out at the home secretary's comments saying "no one should be punished for being homeless" and blamed the number of rough sleepers on the streets of England on "failed government policy" - not lifestyle choices.

Ms Braverman wrote: "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.

"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, and the Government is working with local authorities to strengthen wraparound support including treatment for those with drug and alcohol addiction."

She added that she wants to put a stop to "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 Welsh government’s Housing Support Grant stands at £167million, more than 12% less in real terms than it was a decade ago Credit: Nicholas T Ansell/PA

According to the FT report, the potential legislation would also look to prevent the obstruction of shop doorways by rough sleepers who are using tents under plans being pitched to be included in the King’s Speech, which will set out the government’s legislative agenda on Tuesday.

Soaring private rental fees - which are at an all-time high - coupled with the cost of living crisis has left many in Britain facing eviction as they are unable to keep up with rent or find accommodation that is affordable.

Shelter pointed out those factors, adding that the "housing emergency boils down to people not being able to afford to live anywhere.

"This... combined with decades of government failure to build genuinely affordable social homes is what is driving record levels of homelessness and leaving thousands of people on the streets."The government *promised* to end rough sleeping, but is falling short of the mark."

Also rejecting Ms Braverman's remarks, Crisis said: “We don’t have nearly enough affordable homes and rents are soaring, leaving people destitute and forced to sleep rough.”

ITV News has spoken to scores of families who have fallen into homelessness and been left with no alternative but to sleep in a tent, after being told by the council their temporary accommodation had run out.

In some cases, families were made homeless in a matter of minutes with children ending up on the streets as Britain's temporary accommodation crisis deepens.

A national homelessness study by charity Crisis and Heriot-Watt University shared exclusively with ITV News in August revealed nearly a quarter of a million households (242,000) in England are experiencing the worst forms of homelessness, including sleeping on the streets, staying on friends and families' sofas or stuck in unsuitable temporary accommodation like nightly paid B&Bs and hotels.

That's up 10% in the last two years.

If you are facing eviction, are stuck in temporary accommodation or experiencing homelessness and would like to share your story with our housing investigations team, please get in touch:

The Liberal Democrats said it was “grim politics” for the home secretary to want to “criminalise homeless charities for simply trying to keep vulnerable people warm and dry”.

“The British public raise millions of pounds for homeless people at this time of year, and the Government’s response is to criminalise those charities trying to help.

“This policy will do nothing to stop rough sleeping and will leave vulnerable people to face the harsh weather conditions without any shelter whatsoever.”

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said: "Banning tents will not solve homelessness. The Tory government’s attitude to vulnerable people sleeping on our streets lacks compassion and is deeply depressing."

In September, the government was warned by the Kerslake Commission, a panel of 36 experts, that it was not on target to meet its goal of ending rough sleeping by the next general election, which must take place by January 2025.

The government published its Ending Rough Sleeping For Good strategy in September 2022 in which it restated its 2019 manifesto commitment to end rough sleeping by the end of this Parliament.

But figures published earlier this year showed that the number of people estimated to be sleeping rough in England had risen for the first time since 2017.

A snapshot of a single night in autumn last year found 3,069 people sleeping rough, up 626 (26%) on the equivalent total for 2021 and nearly three-quarters (74%) above the level in 2010 when the figures began.

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