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Crisis sign shows cruel reality of criminalising homelessness

A man looks at an imitation road sign with the Palace of Westminster in the background

Imitation sign reveals how the Criminal Justice Bill would criminalise homelessness, as Crisis step up their campaign against new laws

This week, we’ve stepped up our campaign calling on the UK Government to scrap their plans to criminalise homelessness, with an imitation sign that shows what could happen if we don’t stop them.

It’s hard to believe, but a sign like this could be a reality if the Government’s plans to criminalise homelessness become law.

If their proposals are enacted, people sleeping on the streets could face a fine of up to £2,500 or even prison for so-called ‘nuisance’ rough sleeping.

None of us should be criminalised for being homeless – and the pressure is mounting on the Government to drop their inhumane plans.

Tell your MP: none of us should be criminalised for being homeless

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Is sleeping on the streets going to be a criminal offence?

The Criminal Justice Bill would allow police and local authorities to criminalise so-called ‘nuisance rough sleeping’ in England and Wales. People targeted could be being moved on, face a fine up to £2,500 or even imprisonment.

The Bill says someone could be considered a ‘nuisance’ if they are sleeping in a doorway, if they have ‘excessive smell’, and if they simply look like they are intending to sleep on the streets.

This leaves the door open for anyone sleeping rough, or 'appearing to', to be criminalised based on a judgement about how they look or act.

And it could mean that people who are looking for shelter could face police action just for trying to keep themselves safe. This is unacceptable.

These proposals come at a time when the number of people forced into rough sleeping is soaring, with the latest figures showing that rough sleeping has reached a ten-year high in London.

Why criminalisation doesn’t work

No one should be punished for being homeless. We know that people who sleep rough already face violence, stigmatisation and isolation. If enacted, these laws would drive them further from the help they need.

Fining or moving people on who have nowhere to go does not solve homelessness. All it does is break down trust between people forced to sleep on the streets and the organisations and authorities that can provide them with support.

An imitation road sign standing in front of the River Thames

What are the real solutions to homelessness?

Criminalising people for sleeping rough is not how we end homelessness for good. It simply blames people facing homelessness and destitution rather than helping them. It’s punishing individuals for a systemic failure.

Poverty forces people into homelessness. Record numbers of people are facing homelessness because successive Governments have failed to build enough truly affordable housing. We need to urgently increase the supply of truly affordable homes, including homes for social rent, to prevent homelessness.

And we need to make sure the right support is available right now for people who would otherwise be forced into the worst forms of homelessness, like rough sleeping.

What will happen next with the Criminal Justice Bill?

The Criminal Justice Bill will soon face its next test in Parliament – known as ‘Report Stage’. MPs will have an opportunity to back amendments that could remove the most damaging parts of this Bill.

Together, we can stop the Government’s cruel plans – but we need MPs to speak out against them.

Already, more than 8,000 people have contacted their MP. Will you join them and email your MP asking them to help stop these cruel and unnecessary plans?

Email your MP