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Our reaction to Home Secretary’s statement about rough sleepers

Homeless lifestyle choice

Our Alabaré CEO Andrew Lord, responds to the comments and proposals set out by Home Secretary Suella Braverman over the weekend.

“As a charity committed to ending homelessness, we are alarmed by the statement made by the Home Secretary in which she suggests that homelessness and living on the streets is a “lifestyle choice”.  We stand by our fellow charities who have written to Ms Braverman asking her to urgently reconsider the proposals that are due to be included in the King’s speech tomorrow, which sets out the government’s upcoming legislative agenda.

Having worked with vulnerable and homeless people for the last 32 years, we know that homelessness is a complicated issue, with many factors impacting a person’s ability to engage in support at any given time.  Often it takes several attempts for someone to be able to manage the help that is being offered to them, and it is not something that can be viewed in the simplistic terms that she is suggesting; instead, support must be given with compassion and understanding for the challenges that homeless people are genuinely trying to overcome. The fact that people sleeping rough are frequently the victim of abuse and violence themselves, with an average life expectancy around 30 years less than the general population, again underlines why the Home Secretary’s assertion is so wide of the mark.

It has also been reported that charities such as Alabaré could be fined for offering a tent to someone in need, which is a cause for alarm.  We work hard to ensure we can properly house as many people in need as possible, but occasionally, circumstances mean someone is not able to come into one of our homes.  In those instances, it is vital that the person has shelter and as much protection from the cold as possible.  If the government is condemning the handing out of tents as directly increasing the occurrence of street homelessness, then perhaps they can explain what other options they intend to offer to keep homeless people safe instead?

Finally, we would like to see the government take urgent action to address the lack of affordable housing, which is certainly a significant factor in causing homelessness and repeat homelessness.  The impact of rising interest rates on the already stretched rental market, along with the lack of further government action to ban no-fault evictions, is undoubtedly impacting the ability of people to maintain their tenancies.  It is vital that this is the focus of government legislation, along with a commitment to work with charities like Alabaré to offer solutions and support to end homelessness rather than condemning those living in crisis.”

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