Dear Home Secretary,
Homeless Oxfordshire, Aspire Oxfordshire, and Connection Support refute your recent comments regarding homelessness, are saddened by your ill-informed choice of language that perpetuates stigma and misunderstanding, and urge you to reconsider your proposal to criminalise the use of tents by people who are rough sleeping.
We agree that compassion is the most important approach to homelessness and that nobody in Britain should have to live “in a tent on our streets”. However, anyone who is experiencing homelessness, in any of its many forms, is “genuinely homeless”. It is also misleading, and potentially damaging, to suggest that homelessness is ever a “lifestyle choice”.
The people we support in Oxfordshire on a daily basis have experienced extreme trauma and disadvantage throughout their lives. They may face issues with addiction and challenges with their physical and mental health, and they can struggle to access the help they need. They often have no support network around them and may be vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. These lives were not chosen and should not be persecuted.
We urge you to consider strengthening policy and funding decisions that can help end homelessness by tackling its causes, rather than criminalising its outcome. The latter will lead to avoidable suffering and fatalities. Everyone has the right to a safe and suitable home and we call on the government to increase Local Housing Allowance rates in the upcoming Autumn Statement so that everyone can find a home they can afford.
We also invite you and your colleagues to speak with organisations like ours to achieve a better understanding of the challenges faced by people experiencing homelessness and hear first-hand some of the sustainable and practical solutions.
Simon Hewett-Avison – CEO, Homeless Oxfordshire
Paul Roberts – CEO, Aspire Oxfordshire
Chris Keating – CEO, Connection Support