As the campaign to scrap the Vagrancy Act, a very old piece of legislation which criminalises rough sleeping, continues to get louder it’s clear that punishing people for homelessness should be made a thing of the past.
Making it illegal to sleep rough doesn’t make people who are homeless just go away.
We believe that every individual has intrinsic worth and we believe in treating people with dignity even when it’s challenging.
That’s why we’ve signed up to Homeless Link’s campaign #SupportDontDeport, to take a stand against new rough sleeping immigration rules.
Did you know many people face homelessness in part because of their immigration status?
Some people living in the UK haven’t got a permanent immigration status and will be referred to as having a ‘NRPF condition’ which stands for No Recourse to Public Funds. This means they are not able to apply for most benefits and makes them ineligible for most help available to those who are homeless.
Immigrants to the UK with the NRPF condition are just as likely to find themselves caught up in the same housing crisis as people from the UK, often more so. They pay the same high rents and get trapped in the insecure private rented sector.
There are a number of pieces of legislation they have to navigate including the so-called ‘right to rent’ legislation which makes it illegal to allow someone who is in the UK illegally to rent a home. And asylum seekers who are granted refugee status may have to leave accommodation they’d have been given as an asylum seeker. This can often result in them being made making them homeless.
And to make matters even worse, there’s a new problem to consider; the government are proposing to make sleeping rough – in certain circumstances – grounds for deportation from the UK.
We are very worried about this.
The government have clarified they only intend to use this provision if someone refuses offers of help and are engaged in persistent anti-social behaviour. That might sound entirely fair but we’re worried it puts pressure and responsibility on the person facing homelessness to have to engage with whatever services organisations chose to offer them.
We help people who are in this position, and we know if someone who is homeless fears they may be deported, they may not reach out for help.
Instead, we believe that that the responsibility is on us to make sure we always offer personalised help that works for the individual. If someone chooses not to take it up that’s a challenge to us to re-think how we are working. If we are not getting it right for the person we are trying to help, they shouldn’t bear the consequence.
So we are urging the government to scrap the damaging new rules immediately. We’ve signed a joint statement with other homelessness organisations which you can read here. You can help by sharing this blog with the hashtag #SupportDontDeport and raise your concerns with your local representatives.