A new piece of legislation, which could criminalise rough sleepers, is hitting the headlines this week as more than 40 Conservative MPs are expected to rebel against it.

The Criminal Justice Bill, which is being considered as a replacement for the 200-year-old Vagrancy Act, proposes new powers to move people on who are sleeping rough, and criminalise them if they don’t comply, with a fine of up to £2,500 or even a prison sentence. This would apply in England and Wales.

“Rough sleepers are already at the sharp end of homelessness. We know 3 out of 4 people facing homelessness have difficulties developing trusting relationships, because of their past experiences, and these proposals would only shatter trust further between those forced to sleep on the streets and the organisations that can provide them with support,” says David Smith, CEO of Oasis Community Housing.

The Bill says someone can be considered a ‘nuisance’ if they are sleeping in a doorway, creating ‘excessive smell’ or are someone who is ‘looking like they are intending to sleep on the streets’.

David Smith continues: “Homelessness has been getting worse over the last several years, and should be considered a national crisis. Fining vulnerable people and moving them on as a ‘nuisance’ from where they are sleeping is not going to solve homelessness. This Bill simply puts more people at risk of being dehumanised and criminalised.

“To ensure people aren’t trapped in a cycle of being criminalised for rough sleeping, the UK Government must commit to implementing trauma-informed support across all homelessness services, so people can rebuild their lives.”

An amendment to the Criminal Justic Bill has been lodged by Tory MP and long-time homelessness campaigner Bob Blackman to remove the replacement powers and finally repeal the Vagrancy Act. 

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