Home Secretary Suella Braverman said she wants to put a stop to the “nuisance and distress” caused by homeless people pitching tents on public streets.
The Cabinet minister said Britain “cannot allow our streets to be taken over by rows of tents” occupied by people who she said were mainly from abroad and “living on the streets as a lifestyle choice”.
She said that unless there was action, then British cities could see an “explosion of crime, drug taking, and squalor” that she said San Francisco and Los Angeles in the United States had witnessed.
Mrs Braverman made the comments on X, formerly known as Twitter, as she shared an article from the Financial Times reporting about how she is pushing for restrictions on the use of tents in urban environments.
According to the report, the senior Conservative’s proposals include establishing a civil offence to deter charities from giving tents to homeless people.
It said charities could be fined for handing out tents if they are deemed to have caused a nuisance under plans being pitched to be included in the King’s Speech, which will set out the UK Government’s legislative agenda on Tuesday.
The potential legislation would look to prevent the obstruction of shop doorways by rough sleepers who are using tents, the FT said.
The Liberal Democrats said it was “grim politics” for the Home Secretary to want to “criminalise homeless charities for simply trying to keep vulnerable people warm and dry”.
Mrs Braverman, who is currently on a visit to the Greek island of Samos, tweeted on Saturday: “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.”
Lib Dem home affairs spokesman Alistair Carmichael said: “This is grim politics from a desperate Conservative Government which knows its days are numbered.
“It is a new low for Braverman to criminalise homeless charities for simply trying to keep vulnerable people warm and dry in winter.
“The British public raise millions of pounds for homeless people at this time of year, and the Government’s response is to criminalise those charities trying to help.
“This policy will do nothing to stop rough sleeping and will leave vulnerable people to face the harsh weather conditions without any shelter whatsoever.”
The Home Office has been approached for comment.
In September, the Government was warned by the Kerslake Commission, a panel of 36 experts, that it was not on target to meet its goal of ending rough sleeping by the next general election, which must take place by January 2025.
The Government published its Ending Rough Sleeping For Good strategy in September 2022 in which it restated its 2019 manifesto commitment to end rough sleeping by the end of this Parliament.
But figures published earlier this year showed that the number of people estimated to be sleeping rough in England had risen for the first time since 2017.
A snapshot of a single night in autumn last year found 3,069 people sleeping rough, up 626 (26%) on the equivalent total for 2021 and nearly three-quarters (74%) above the level in 2010 when the figures began.
Published: by Radio NewsHub