24 Feb 2022
Along with Shelter, Homeless Link and other essential housing and homelessness organisations, CIH have sent a letter to the Home Secretary regarding the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill (PCSC Bill).
The letter explains that whilst repealing the archaic Vagrancy Act is most welcome, two areas of the original Bill need to change to not criminalise people simply for being homeless or living in inadequate housing.
Part 4 is targeted at unauthorised traveller encampments. This is of great concern given the housing needs of Gypsy, Roma, and Traveller communities, who need access to suitable sites for their homes. A shortage of suitable sites makes it difficult for people to avoid homelessness, even when staying in one place. People whose usual home is a vehicle but where they are entitled to reside are legally homeless. Furthermore, travelling for cultural purposes (such as fairs and funerals) is a fundamental part of life for most Gypsy and Traveller community members. While targeted at Gypsies, Roma and Travellers, Part 4 also risks further harm by putting any homeless person who resorts to sleeping in a car at risk of arrest and imprisonment if they have been asked to leave by the landowner or police. We are calling on the Home Secretary to drop Part 4 entirely as being homeless should never be a crime.
Part 3 of the Bill imposes restrictions on annoyance and noise, which will undermine organisations and campaigners who take to the streets to advocate for the rights of the most disadvantaged people in our communities. We urge the Government to accept the Lords’ amendments to Part 3 and protect the right to noisy protests.
Open letter to Priti Patel MP
Shelter has teamed up with eight other leading homeless and housing organisations to call on the Home Secretary to think again:
Dear Home Secretary,
As some of the country’s leading housing and homelessness organisations we support your amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill that will repeal the archaic Vagrancy Act. We look forward to working with you to make this a reality. But this does nothing to address Parts 3 and 4 of the Bill, which risks criminalising people who are homeless and people protesting for better housing conditions.
Part 4 of the Bill criminalises people staying in so-called ‘unauthorised encampments.’ It risks putting any person who is homeless and resorts to living in a car, van, or other vehicle – or indeed has a vehicle parked near where they may be sleeping rough – at risk of arrest. It also threatens to punish many from Gypsy, Roma, and Traveller communities who are unable to access suitable sites for their housing needs. This is needless and alarming legislation that risks bringing harm to vulnerable people.
We have wider misgivings about Part 3 of the Bill. Noisy and annoying protest is a fundamental element of a vibrant civil society. The Bill will undermine organisations and campaigners who take to the streets to advocate for the rights of the most disadvantaged people in our communities. We urge the Government to accept the Lords’ amendments to Part 3 and protect the right to noisy protests.
Being homeless should never be a crime and we should all be able to freely campaign to say so.
We would welcome the opportunity to meet with you to discuss our concerns further.
Polly Neate CBE, Chief Executive, Shelter
Gavin Smart, Chief Executive, Chartered Institute of Housing
Rick Henderson, Chief Executive, Homeless Link
Amanda Dubarry, Chief Executive, Caritas Anchor House
Chris Keating, Chief Executive, Connection Support
Jackie Bliss, Chief Executive, HARP
Dr Jan Sheldon, Chief Executive, St Martins
Salma Ravat, Manager, One Roof Leicester
Steve Rundell, Chief Executive, Nomad Opening Doors, Sheffield