Charities criticise Suella Braverman for claim homelessness is ‘lifestyle choice’ | Homelessness

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Homelessness charities have criticised the home secretary after she described sleeping rough as a “lifestyle choice”, sparking a widespread backlash.

Organisations including Crisis, Centrepoint, St Mungo’s and Pathway responded to Suella Braverman’s purported plans to crack down on the pitching of tents in urban areas, which she largely blamed on individuals “from abroad”.

A letter from the charities reads: “Sleeping on the street is not a lifestyle choice. Laying blame with people forced to sleep rough will only push people further away from help into poverty, putting them at risk of exploitation. At the extreme end, we will see an increase in deaths and fatalities, which are totally preventable.

“People sleeping rough frequently experience violence and abuse. The impact on their physical and mental health is significant. The average age of death for people experiencing homelessness is just 45 for men and 43 for women. This is not a life people choose.”

Braverman wrote on X, formerly Twitter: “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.

“What I want to stop, and what the law-abiding majority wants us to stop, is 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.”

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Matt Downie, the chief executive of Crisis, said: “In the last 12 months, in London, there’s been a 29% increase in people experiencing their first night on the streets. This is a consequence of poverty – and poverty in this country has been exacerbated by policy choices.”

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