Emmaus UK has joined 36 other organisations in writing to the Home Secretary, James Cleverly, urging him to reconsider plans that would criminalise people for sleeping rough. The Criminal Justice Bill includes measures that would impose fines and prison terms on people who are forced to live on the streets.

The joint letter has added significant pressure on the Government to change course at a time when many MPs are demanding amendments to the Bill. Emmaus UK has previously spoken out against plans to criminalise rough sleeping in tents.

Signed by leaders from charities including Crisis, Amnesty UK, Homeless Link, and Centrepoint, the letter shows the power of different organisations coming together around a shared message.

Charlotte Talbott, CEO of Emmaus UK, said: “Instead of punishing people for sleeping rough, our focus should be on helping those who are experiencing homelessness, as we strive to do at Emmaus UK by providing a home, support, work opportunities, community, and hope for the future. The Bill threatens to undermine the good work done by Emmaus and many other organisations across the country.

“The Government itself has made a manifesto commitment to end rough sleeping by the end of the year and has provided over £2bn of funding to tackle homelessness. It should be building trust and understanding between authorities and people forced to sleep rough so it can get closer to meeting those aims.”

Why is the Criminal Justice Bill so harmful?

The Criminal Justice Bill gives police the power to fine and arrest people considered to be a ‘nuisance’ when rough sleeping. This includes people who look like they have slept rough or ‘intend’ to do so, and people who carry an ‘excessive smell’.

It could see women penalised for seeking shelter and safety in well-lit doorways, when they are disproportionately likely to suffer violence and sexual abuse on the streets.

These are seen as replacement measures for the widely criticised Vagrancy Act 1824, which the Government plans to repeal. But many say the new measures are just as bad, or even worse.

Adding to the stigma

Charlotte said: “There a basic unfairness to the proposals in the Criminal Justice Bill, given that people experiencing homelessness have not chosen to be in their situation. As Bob Blackman MP said, people deserve assistance rather than arresting. In addition, there is also a wider social impact on how society sees rough sleepers. The Bill as it stands encourages people to view those on the streets as vagrants and criminals. It only adds to the stigma around homelessness.

“We hope that our letter with other charities will help shift the dial on the Criminal Justice Bill and lead the Government to reconsider its punitive proposals.”


Read the letter in full here: Crisis’s website.

Read more on Emmaus stepping up its campaigning work here: Emmaus attends Parliamentary lobby on ending homelessness.