CHARITY chiefs at a vital lifeline for homeless people across Worcester and Malvern have slammed Home Secretary Suella Braverman’s comments on rough sleeping being ‘a lifestyle choice’.
Maggs Day Centre has added its voice to the row and said more than 30 years of working with homeless people and rough sleepers showed living on the streets was not a lifestyle choice.
In a series of social media posts Ms Braverman stressed the Government would always support those ‘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.”
Maggs have invited Ms Braverman to its day centre to speak to its users and ‘find out for herself why people are led to this path’
“The reasons for homelessness are never simple and are usually determined by a range of complex circumstances such as mental ill health, trauma, fleeing from domestic violence, and so many more complicated personal and social issues. Those people have no other option but to sleep in a tent,” the charity said.
“Penalising those who believe they have no other option other than to sleep in a tent – by taking that simple, temporary place of security away from them – will be highly detrimental to the individual and to the many agencies, public and charitable organisations, who are working daily to intervene to make a difference by securing services and homes.
The proposal was not in the King’s Speech on Tuesday (November 7), which set out the government’s priorities for the year ahead but it’s thought measures could still be included in the proposed Criminal Justice Bill.
Ms Braverman has been told to ‘resign and get out the way’ by a Liberal Democrat general election candidate for Malvern who revealed he was homeless at the age of 17.
Coun Dan Boatright-Greene, who will fight the West Worcestershire seat, delivered his plea in a letter to Ms Braverman which called on her to go if she couldn’t find the compassion to help those in need rather than ‘criminalising’ them.
“I know what it feels like. It is not a lifestyle choice. I never broke the law. Most people who are homeless don’t break the law,” he said.
“If we don’t want people to live in such poor conditions, start funding our services better.
“Citizen’s Advice needs funding properly so they can do their job. The charity Shelter is overwhelmed with residents trying to get the support they need.”