Harrogate and Knaresborough Lib Dems criticise homeless tent restriction plan
Last updated Nov 6, 2023
Suella Braverman, home secretary.
Suella Braverman

Harrogate and Knaresborough Liberal Democrats have criticised Home Secretary Suella Braverman after she proposed laws to restrict the use of tents by homeless people.

Ms Braverman posted on her social media that the government would introduce new penalties for those who are believed to have refused help from the authorities.

She argued that many see the move to live in a tent as a “lifestyle choice” and that help should be offered to those who are “genuinely homeless”.

Ms Braverman said:

“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.”

Tom Gordon, Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for Harrogate and Knaresborough, described the proposal as “wrong on so many levels”.

He said:

“I can’t stay silent about the recent comments by Home Secretary Suella Braverman, who called rough sleeping a “lifestyle choice” and wants to restrict the use of tents by homeless people.

“This just feels wrong on so many levels, and it certainly doesn’t represent the views of local people that I know.

“Our towns have always been known for their sense of community, compassion, and the way we rally around those in need.”

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Mr Gordon rejected the suggestion that living in a tent was a “lifestyle choice” and described it as “the most desperate of politics”.

He added:

“The majority of homeless individuals are often dealing with difficult circumstances beyond their control.

“We should be focused on addressing the root causes of homelessness, such as this governments chronic failure of housing policy, rather than penalising those who are trying to survive on the streets.”

Ms Braverman’s proposal is expected to be included in the King’s Speech tomorrow, which sets out the government’s legislative agenda.

Lifestyle choice comment is ‘not correct’

Meanwhile, Andrew Jones, Conservative MP for Harrogate and Knaresborough, said the Home Secretary’s comments on the reasons behind homelessness, rough sleeping and street begging showed “a limited understanding” of the issues.

However, he added that Mrs Braverman also spoke of investment in wrap-around care and greater support for those who face such issues.

Mr Jones said:

“The Home Secretary’s comments in respect of the reasons behind homelessness, rough sleeping and street begging showed limited understanding of these issues.

“To describe homelessness as ‘a lifestyle choice’ and the people who are in these situations as mainly ‘from abroad’ is not correct. It is not surprising that those comments have been seized upon as they are a simplistic description of what most know are complex issues with many dimensions.

“She went on to talk about the need to invest more in wrap-around care and for greater support for the problems faced by homeless people, rough sleepers and street beggars. I agree with that part of what she said and wish she had restricted herself to those sensible and positive comments.

“We have invested in this kind of support nationally and locally I did so as a Harrogate councillor with responsibility for the borough’s finances. This is support that tackles the problems that underlie homelessness and rough sleeping –addiction, family breakdown, mental health problems and many more beside.”

Harrogate Homeless Project

He added:

“We have an example of excellence in tackling homelessness in the Harrogate Homeless Project. The project supports people back in to stable lives by helping them deal with the problems that contributed to their homelessness or rough sleeping.

“They continue that support as their clients build new lives in permanent accommodation. They deal with the complex issues in a measured and practical way; their approach to these issues is the correct one. Sound-bites aside, more emphasis on that approach is what I want to see in the King’s Speech.”

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