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Britain’s government on Sunday defended proposed legislation that aims to restrict charities from providing homeless people with tents, after facing fierce criticism. online news
There has been a sharp rise in the number of people sleeping on the streets with UK mortgage rates and rents soaring since decades-high inflation fuelled the worst cost-of-living crisis in a generation.
Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden told the BBC Sunday that the government was looking at legislation aimed at preventing “tent cities”.
“We shouldn’t allow these kind of tent cities and other things to spring up and that’s why we are looking at the kind of legislation that might be necessary to address that,” he said.
Britain’s Home Secretary Suella Braverman sparked outrage from opposition politicians and homeless charities after she said Saturday that she wants to put a stop to the “nuisance and distress” caused by homeless people pitching tents on public streets.
“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,” she wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.
Braverman made the comments as she shared an article from the Financial Times about proposals to fine charities for handing out tents, if they are deemed to have caused a nuisance.
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The potential legislation is due to be included in the King’s Speech, which will set out the government’s legislative agenda on Tuesday.
The UK government has set a target of ending rough sleeping in England by 2024, but housing charities have warned that target is unreachable.
The Mayor of London, Labour’s Sadiq Khan, wrote on X that the Conservative government’s attitude “lacks compassion” and is “deeply depressing”.
“Banning tents will not solve homelessness,” he wrote.
The Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman described the proposals as “a new low for Braverman.”
A report on homelessness published by the Heriot-Watt University in July said some 3,069 people were sleeping rough in England in November 2022 — a 26 percent rise from the previous year.
The report said 290,000 eligible households sought help from local authorities on grounds of homelessness between 2021 and 2022.
And figures released in August by the London Assembly recorded 3,272 people sleeping rough in the capital between April and June 2023 — nearly half of whom were on the streets for the first time, according to the report.
“Let’s make it clear: living on the streets is not a ‘lifestyle choice’ – it is a sign of failed government policy,” Housing charity Shelter wrote on X.
Crisis, a homelessness charity, also rejected Braverman’s proposals, warning that Britain doesn’t have “nearly enough affordable homes and rents are soaring, leaving people destitute and forced to sleep rough.”
© Agence France-Presse