THE CEO of a Wirral homelessness charity has slammed comments made by the Home Secretary.
In a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, said the UK should not become San Francisco or Los Angeles, and warned against rough sleeping becoming a “lifestyle choice”.
In a statement, Ms Braverman said: “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.”
Following Ms Braverman’s comments, homeless charity Wirral Ark CEO, Paul Hardman responded asking people to focus on the “grim facts that people are faced with everyday”.
Mr Hardman said: “In response to the Home Secretary’s headline grabbing ‘it’s a lifestyle choice’ comment when talking about people experiencing homelessness, I would ask people to focus on the grim facts that people are faced with every day.
“The average age of death among homeless people in the UK is 47 for a man and 43 for a woman. This compares to 79.5 for men and 83.1 for women in the general population. Public Health England estimates that 41% of people classified as rough sleepers have a long-term health condition. This compares to 28% of the general population Homeless people are 17 times more likely to experience violence than members of the general public.
“Let us focus on the facts, let us be kind to each and everyone, and lets work together to make things better for those we serve."
Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, said people should not be criminalised for having nowhere to live but declined to rule of a restriction on tents for homeless people.
The Prime Minister also insisted the Home Secretary, whose comments on rough sleeping sometimes being a “lifestyle choice” have prompted strong criticism, is focused on the public’s priorities when asked if he felt she was undermining him.
Despite expectations that proposals from Ms Braverman to ban charities from handing out tents to the homeless might have been included in the King’s Speech on Tuesday, there was no mention of them.
Downing Street sources said they were still “undergoing scrutiny”.
Ms Braverman’s comments have been widely criticised, with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer taking aim at the Cabinet minister during the King’s Speech debate in the Commons on Tuesday.
“We have a party so devoid of leadership it is happy to follow a Home Secretary who describes homelessness as a lifestyle choice,” he told MPs.