Scrap the Vagrancy Act: let the Government hear your views
For the last few months, organisations including Homeless Link, Crisis, Centrepoint, Cymorth Cymru, Liberty, Shelter Cymru and The Wallich have been calling for the Vagrancy Act to be scrapped. The Vagrancy Act is now 195 years old, and makes it a crime to sleep rough or beg in England and Wales, meaning anyone who is seen living on the streets or begging is liable for arrest.
We know that the Vagrancy Act does nothing to resolve the root causes of homelessness. In fact, it’s far more likely to push someone further from the vital services that help them to move away from the streets for good. We’ve heard this from Pudsey, who talked about homeless people in Blackpool being fined under the Vagrancy Act and then banned from the town centre – meaning they couldn’t access essential services for rough sleepers when the temperature dropped during the winter. We’ve heard it from Shaun, who was fined £150 for ‘gathering money for alms’, and sent on his way with no advice or support. We’ve heard it from Karl, who talked about feeling like the system is set up to perpetuate homelessness, not to end it. And from countless others who’ve experienced enforcement under the Vagrancy Act, and been pushed further from the support.
The good news is that the Government is currently reviewing the Vagrancy Act. At Crisis, we’ve been doing as much evidence gathering as we can in advance of this review, and made the case for repeal in our recent report, Scrap the Act. Now’s the time to make sure the Homelessness Minister and the Home Secretary, who are in charge of the review, hear the views of those who’ve experienced homelessness, or who work closely with people experiencing homelessness.
Can your organisation help? Receiving lots of letters directly from homelessness/housing organisations will leave the Government in no doubt that the sector believe the Vagrancy Act should be repealed. Writing to the Home Secretary and/or the Homelessness Minister directly from your Chief Executive or Director would be incredibly helpful for the campaign. Here’s an example of a letter to the Home Secretary from an organisation working with people experiencing homelessness, though including information specific to your organisation will make the letter more powerful.
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Rosie is the Campaigns Manager at Crisis.