Open Letter to stop criminalisation of homelessness

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As Labour Party members, and supporters, we welcome the announcement by the Labour leadership that it will repeal the 1824 Vagrancy Act once the Labour party is in government, but more needs to be done to end criminalisation of homelessness. The Vagrancy Act makes it a crime to sleep 'in any deserted or unoccupied building, or in the open air, or under a tent, or in any cart of waggon, not having any visible means of subsistence'. People can be fined up to £1,000 and given a two-year criminal record under an act which specifically targets the most marginalised in our society, and thousands face arrest every year.

The Vagrancy Act is just one segment of a system of criminalisation of people experiencing homelessness and rough sleeping. Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs) can make it illegal to beg or sleep rough within a given area. A raft of other ‘anti-social behaviour’ measures, from Criminal Behaviour Orders (CBOs) to dispersal orders, give police and councils powers to move rough sleepers on, or give them a hefty fine. A study by the charity Crisis showed that 73% of rough sleepers experienced some kind of criminalisation in the last year. People experiencing homelessness can be intensely vulnerable. Too often these measures trap people in a cycle, faced with fines they cannot pay and with a growing mistrust of those official council services they should be turning to for help.

No more can we threaten to fine people who have nothing. No more can we accept legislation which targets rough sleepers as criminals, when they are far more likely to be victims of harassment, violence and abuse. We're calling for an end to the Vagrancy Act, and for councils and police forces to cease using all measures which ban begging and rough sleeping or target those experiencing homelessness.

Homelessness is effectively a criminal offence. We’re demanding a different approach.

Signed:

Rachael Maskell MP, York Central
Hugh Gaffney MP, Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill
Lloyd Russell-Moyle MP, Brighton Kemptown
Catherine West MP, Hornsey and Wood Green
Karen Lee MP, Lincoln
Shaista Aziz, Councillor, Oxford East
Lara McNeill, NEC Youth Member, Tottenham
Gabriela Salva Macallan, Councillor, Bethnal Green and Bow
Paul Bell, Cabinet Member for Housing, Lewisham Deptford
Seema Chandwani, Councillor, Tottenham
Sasha das Gupta, Councillor, East Ham
Daniel Stone, Councillor, Hornsey and Wood Green CLP
Apsana Begum, CLP Secretary, Poplar and Limehouse
Rida Vaquas, Young Labour NC member, Oxford East
Alena Ivanova, CLP Policy Officer, Bethnal Green and Bow CLP
Christine Shawcroft, Branch Secretary, Poplar and Limehouse
David Thomas, CLP Political Education Officer, Hove & Portslade
Amna Abdullatif, Manchester City Party Chair, Central Manchester
Sarah Dorman, Lewisham Deptford
Christian Wolmar, Islington
Alex Kumar, Oxford East
Puru Miah, Councillor, Bethnal Green and Bow
Richard Howlett, Councillor, Oxford East
Martyn Rush, Councillor, Oxford East
Nadine Bely-Summers, Councillor, Oxford East
Anjna Khurana, Councillor, Islington North
Salman Shaheen, Councillor for Isleworth, Chair of the Labour Group on Hounslow Council, Brentford & Isleworth
Annette Wright, Councillor, Manchester
David Hall, County Councillor, City of Durham
Sara Hyde, Councillor, Islington South and Finsbury
Shamshia Ali, Councillor, Ilford North
Sheila Chapman, Councillor, Islington North
Nurullah Turan, Councillor, London Borough of Islington
Lucy Caldicott, Councillor, Vauxhall
Mohamed Jaser, Councillor, Vauxhall
John Woolf, Councillor, Islington South
Clare McIntyre, Councillor, Wavertree
James McAsh, Councillor, Camberwell and Peckham
Doug James, Councillor & Ward Chair, Walsall South
Dee Martin, Councillor, Ealing North
Mark Blake, Councillor, Hornsey Wood Green
Eldridge Culverwell, Haringey Councillor, Stroud Green
Hosnieh Djafari-Marbini, Councillor, Oxford East
Lewis Cox, Councillor, Ealing North
James Chiriyankandath, Councillor, Haringey; Tottenham GC delegate, Tottenham
Ben Clay, Councillor, Withington
Mike Rowley, Councillor, Oxford East
Maurice McLeod, Councillor, Tooting
Jumbo Chan, Councillor, Brent Central
Mahir Demir, Councillor, Hornsey & Wood Green
Clare Joseph, Councillor, Hackney South
Matt White, Councillor, Tottenham
Ben Mackmurdie, Councillor, Islington
Santiago Bell-Bradford, Councillor, Islington North
Holly Kal-Weiss, Treasurer, Chipping Barnet
Coral Jones, CLP Chair, Hackney South & Shoreditch
Lizzy Ali, CLP Chair, Leyton and Wanstead
Rabyah Khan, Co-Chair, Oxford & District Labour Party
Mark Whiley, LGBT+ Officer, Labour International CLP
Nada Al-Sanjari, SE Regional Board, Maidenhead
Sacha Ismail, Lewisham East
Peter Greenwood, Darlington
Zebulun Sansom, Former Chair of Harborough CLP, Holborn and Saint Pancras
Heather Mendick, CLP Secretary, Hackney South and Shoreditch
Alana Heaney, Branch Secretary & Vice Chair Campaigns CLP, Hackney South and Shoreditch
Mick Gilgunn, Executive Committee member, Islington North
Lisa Rossetti, Branch Secretary, City of Chester
Gillian Dalley, Branch Chair (Tollington), Islington North
Tom Barringer, General Committee delegate, Tottenham
Eloise Harris, CLP Social Media Officer, Bethnal Green & Bow
Arya Tandon, Altrincham and Sale West
Mallika Wagle, Oxford West and Abingdon
Ayaz Mohamedali, Oxford West and Abingdon
William Durrant, SOAS Labour Executive Committee, Holborn & St Pancras
Joshua Andrew, Croydon South
Charlotte Carson, Lewisham West & Penge
Caroline Raine, Branch Chair (Rose Hill, Iffley and Littlemore), Oxford East
Gavin Everall, Branch Secretary, Bow East, Bethnal Green and Bow CLP
Emma Jones, Oxford West & Abingdon CLP
Stephen Knight, Campaigns Officer, Twickenham
Gareth Morgan, Assistant Secretary, Nottingham East
Sue Richards, Womens Officer, Witney West
Gary McFarlane, Equality Officer NUJ London Branch, Haringey
Geoff Palmer, LGBT Officer, Chipping Barnet
Rosie Sourbut, Oxford University Labour Club Co-Chair, Oxford East
Lesley Carty, Secretary, South-East Cornwall
Charlotte Austin, National Policy Forum Youth Rep, Bishop Auckland CLP
Padraic Mackervaie, London Fields Ward Organizer, Hackney South & Shoreditch
Kim Coote, Womens Officer, Mole Valley CLP
Diane Mitchell , Chair, Wish & Westbourne Labour Party, Hove and PortsladeCLP
Seyi Akiwowo, Executive Committee Member, West Ham
Jordan Thornton, Adur Branch Campaign Coordinator, East Worthing and Shoreham
Matt Phypers, Social Media and Comms Officer, Gloucester
Jill Pack, Branch Secretary, Hornsey & Wood Green
Karen Purdy, Women's Officer, Stourbridge
Paul Stygal, Secretary, Milton Branch, Rochford & Southend East
Colin Nickless, Candidate, Rochford & Southend East CLP
Kate Sheehan, Local Campaign Forum Delegate, Rochford and Southend East
Rob Gardiner, NHS officer, Huntingdonshire
Andrew Moor, North Branch Chair, Darlington
Simone Longley, LCF Communications Officer, Rochford & Southend East CLP
Helen Thomas, Poole
Jay Staker, Treasurer, Oxford University Labour Club, Oxford East
Sarah Byrne, Lcf, Hackney south
Ali Dogan, LCF Representative, Hackney South & Shoreditch CLP
Sarah Bold, Ward vice chair, North Islington
Tonia Ilia, Women's Officer, Islington North
Catriona Gray, LGBT + Officer, Lewisham West and Penge
Philip Wallace, Fundraiser, Dulwich & West Norwood
Peter Nowland, Vice Chairman, Oxford East
Daniel Nichols, Political Officer, Romford
Peter Burgess Political Education Officer, Brentford and Isleworth CLP
Judy. Atkinson, Branch chair. Chiswick, Brentford & Isleworth
Edwin Darfi, GC Member, Hornsey & Wood Green
Leila Nia .
Eleanor Ormsby, West Ham
Sam Fletcher, Skipton and Ripon
Avril Alexander, Oxford West and Abingdon
Coral Price, Banbury
Dominique Cournault , Bethnal Green and Bow
Steven Carver, Bethnal Green and Bow
J.Macky, Brent
Nick Walker, Oxford East
Rhian Keyse, Exeter
Peter Mole, Bolton North East
Sandy Paul, Poplar and Limehouse
Kim Clugston, Glasgow North East
Martha Shearer, Bethnal Green and Bow
Judith Burchardt, Earley
Lilith Young, Brighton
Lydia Stein, West Ham
Liz Davies, Southampton Test
Haroun Hameed, Oxford East
Max Hardwick, South Derbyshire
Shenai Fiore, Islington
Hannah Taylor, Edinburgh East
Victoria Carter, North West Hampshire
Lily Baker, Poplar & Limehouse
Jonny Evans, North Islington
Jon Narcross, Hackney South and Shoreditch
Kenny Love, Hackney South and Shoreditch
Luke Savage, Gorton
Andrew Jeffery, Hackney South & Shoreditch
Fionnuala Quinn, Islington
Jason Hickel, Hampstead and Kilburn
Francis Quinn, Islington North
Megan Howells, Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney
Wojciech Dmochowski, Hackney South and Shoreditch
Stephen Lloyd, Oswestry
Katie Watson, Lewisham
Laura Clarke, Southend West
Mark Jameson, Darlington
Lyndsey Jameson, Darlington
Rory Todd, Darlington
Paul Mansfield, Southend West
Martha Southall, Rochdale
Mike Smith, Rochford & Southend East
Avril Baker, Hornsey & Wood Green
James Doran, Darlington
Toni Goodchild, Southend West
Philip Gibbins, Cambridge
Louise Graham, Darlington
Forhana Begum
Patricia Ryan, Southend West
Jasmine Flather, Oxford West and Abingdon
Dan Simmonds, Hove & Portslade
Adam Zulqarnain Mohd Said, Oxford East
Gina Harkell, Hornsey and Wood Green
Margaret Hunter, Darlington
Edward Roworth, Manchester Withington
Dominic Dalglish, Tottenham
Natalie Hoad, East Worthing and Adur
Angela Carswell, Shoreham
Jimi Cullen, Oxford East
Timothy Mullen, Stoke-on-Trent South
Sue Johnston, Worthing
Angela Picknell, Islington South
Nabeela Talib, Oxford East
Steve Lee, Ealing Central & Acton
Debbie Goddard, Eastleigh
Liz Edwards, West Oxfordshire
Nicola Goldsmith, Northampton South
Eva Elliott, Cardiff Central
Kath Maguire, St Ives
James Goldstone, Camberwell & Peckham
Lamis Hamdi, Oxford East
Juliet Shapiro, Kensington and Chelsea
Louise Davies, East Worthing
Carolyn Doran, Corby
Stephen Smith, Mitcham and Morden
Jane Middleton, Bath
Yvonne Pinner, Oxford
Sobia Afridi, Oxford
Anisha Faruk, Oxford East
Iris Kaye-Smith, Oxford East
Mark Lygo, Oxford East
Kim Tan, Leeds West
Blue Weiss, Oxford East
Jake Davies, Oxford East
Ray Williams, Oxford East
Isabella Welch, Bristol West
Pete Willsband, RMT
Kath McDonnell, Morden
Stephen Wood, Hornsey and Wood Green
Phil Wallace
Marie Lynam, Hampstead and Kilburn
Jan Nieber, Haringey
William Miles
Sally Richards, Richmond
Denzil Monk, St Ives
Justine Jenkins, Bridgend
Lilith, Brighton Pavillion
Judith Burchardt, Earley
Laurel Wingfield, Bayswater
Judy Snowball, Ealing Central & Acton
Mandy Thompson, Salisbury
Valerie Woolgar
John Shelton, Bolsover
Rob Lennon, Vesey
Kristen Barrett-Casey, Bradford West
Colin Greenfield, Maidenhead
Joe Lovell-McNamee, Salford and Eccles
Meriel Colenutt, Oxford West and Abingdon
Robin Malloy, Stratford-Upon-Avon
Antoinette Paphides, Croydon South
Gill Millman, Croydon South
Maga Flores-Trevino, Oxford East
Jeevan Ravindran, Oxford East
Freya Hanley, Newton Abbot
Teresa Gray, Old Bexley and Sidcup
Anita Conradi, Battersea
Helen Cassidy, Croydon North
Anna Day, OBS Community Organisor, Old Bexley & Sidcup
Thomas Fisk, Darlington
Ollie Potter, Vauxhall
David Stirrup, Carmarthen and East Dinefwr
Nadia Whittome, Rushcliffe
Bob Webb, York Central
Matthew Rose, Canterbury
Rowan Fortune, Brentford and Isleworth
Patrick Bettington, Bethnal Green and Bow
Namaa AL-Mahdi, Feltham and Heston
Anisha Faruk, Oxford East
Allison Mccarthy, Merthyr Tydfil
Paul Murgatroyd, Manchester Gorton
Emma Blease, Frome
David Dewhurst, Brentford and Isleworth
Hendrix Lancaster, Eccles
John Kenton, Hounslow