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Concerns have been raised over a plan to criminalise rough sleeping.

Marie-Claire Delbrouque, the chief executive of the Norwich-based charity Hopestead, expressed her strong disapproval of these plans, which are part of a new Criminal Justice Bill, labelling them as deeply troubling.

Ms Delbrouque said: “Hopestead strongly condemns these plans, which not only overlook the fundamental causes of homelessness but could also intensify the challenges faced by some of our community’s most vulnerable individuals. It’s concerning to think of punishing individuals for their sheer need to find a place to sleep on the streets. This approach is morally wrong and misdirected.”

She said that homelessness is a complex issue, influenced by various factors such as poverty, mental health, addiction, domestic abuse, and relationship breakdowns. Ms Delbrouque suggested that the focus should be on providing essential support, resources, and housing solutions, rather than criminalising those in desperate situations.

The government is already facing a backlash over the plans, which would give police powers to move on rough sleepers deemed to be causing a “nuisance”. People sleeping rough could also face prison or fines of up to £2,500 if the bill is passed into law. 

The Times newspaper has reported the bill has been ‘paused’ while ministers negotiate with backbench MPs concerned about the proposals.

Marie-Claire Delbrouque, chief executive officer of the charity Hopestead

Government statistics show an increase in rough sleeping in the east of England, with 337 individuals recorded in one night last autumn, marking an 18% rise from the previous year.

Hopestead, part of Flagship Group, has been dedicated to ending homelessness since it was launched in 2020.

Ms Delbrouque voiced her concern over relying on the legal system to address these issues, pointing out the pressing need for government to adopt a more effective approach to ending homelessness.

She said: “We do not support placing the burden of a failing system on the criminal system that is already at breaking point itself. The government needs to focus on taking decisive action that will end homelessness for good.”

Ms Delbrouque urged people to join her in signing an open letter from the charity Crisis calling on political leaders to end homelessness within the next decade.

The letter can be found at campaigns.crisis.org.uk/page/143629.

Published on 02/04/2024.