Councils targeting rough sleepers with draconian enforcement measures normally reserved for serious antisocial behaviour.
Councils across England and Wales are reportedly targeting homeless rough sleepers with legal measures normally reserved for genuine antisocial behaviour, according to new research by the homeless charity Crisis.
A survey of local authorities found one in three (36 per cent) are actively targeting rough sleepers with strict enforcement measures. Common measures included Criminal Behaviour Orders (45 per cent), Dispersal Orders (35 per cent), Public Space Protection Orders (17 per cent) and actions under the Vagrancy Act (27 per cent).
Another survey of 458 recent or current rough sleepers found that 73 per cent had been threatened by enforcement measures, with 1 in 10 subjected to actual legal penalties. More than half (56 per cent) had been asked to move on by a police officer or enforcement agent in the last twelve months.
More than 9 in 10 councils (94 per cent) said advice and support was offered alongside enforcement, but this was generally only legal advice about the measures being taken against them.
Crisis says the enforcement measures alone will not help homeless people get off the streets and should never be used without also offering meaningful support and accommodation.
More than 8 in 10 current and former rough sleepers who responded to the survey said they hadn’t received any support. More than half (56 percent) said the traumatic experience had left them feeling ashamed of their circumstances, while 30 per cent said it had made it more difficult to find accommodation.
Crisis is calling on councils to ensure enforcement measures are only used for genuine antisocial behaviour, and has urged the government to issue councils with statutory guidance on the use of antisocial behaviour powers.
Police and local agencies should also be properly trained to advise rough sleepers on available advice and support services, say Crisis.