On 4 November, Mrs Braverman, the then Home Secretary, shared a statement on X, which read: “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.”

It was further revealed that she intended to make it illegal for people experiencing homelessness to use a tent as shelter.

There are two issues here. The first and most important is that sleeping out for the majority is not a lifestyle choice. It’s dangerous and traumatic especially during the winter months.

In an open letter to the then Home Secretary a number of Homeless Charities said:  Sleeping on the street is not a lifestyle choice. Laying blame with people forced to sleep rough will only push people further away from help into poverty, putting them at risk of exploitation. At the extreme end we will see an increase in deaths and fatalities which are totally preventable.

People sleeping rough frequently experience violence and abuse. The impact on their physical and mental health is significant. The average age of death for people experiencing homelessness is just 45 for men and 43 for women. This is not a life people choose.”

A coloured drawing of a forlorn-looking man, sitting at the door to his dishevelled tent, pitched behind some industrial buildings. The skyline of the town is silhouetted in the distance

This wonderful illustration has been kindly provided by artist David Huggins

The second is that she was also considering making it illegal for charities such as HAB to provide tents or sleeping bags to people sleeping rough on the streets.

At HAB, with your support, we often provide sleeping bags and sometimes tents to those sleeping rough in Barnet.

The real problem here are not the tents but the lack of affordable accommodation and the shortage of social housing. In addition, many people sleeping rough have complex needs, often related to mental health. Again, there is an acute shortage of professional support for people experiencing homelessness combined with mental health issues.

Our team, both at the Centre and in the various housing projects, work really hard to get people the support they need but often come up against a lack of available resources.

It is only with the help of you, our supporters, that we can continue to offer the help our clients so desperately need.

Joe Lee,
Chief Executive HAB