Homelessness is not a crime! #ScrapTheVagrancyAct

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Samantha Batra
Samantha Batra signed this petition

Homelessness is caused by complex social issues which cannot possibly be solved by criminal sanctions. The Vagrancy Act must be scrapped.

In 2008 I asked someone for 20p to make a phone call. I was arrested on the spot for begging. A night in the cells, a trip to court and a fine later, I was sent straight back to the streets. No actual help was offered.

That’s the reality of how our society treats people on the streets.

The current law comes from the 200-year old Vagrancy Act that now needs to be scrapped. It doesn’t offer any support, just a speedy criminal record. It’s not the police’s fault – they follow the rules set by Government – but this is a compassionless law that has led to 8,500 people arrested in just the last five years for trying to survive.

It put the onus on me to magically turn my fortunes around or risk cruel punishment. And it stands to reason that if you arrest someone, they feel like a criminal. It pushed me and many people I’ve met away from vital services that actually help you.

Fining people for being poor keeps us poor. It gives no route off the streets.

It took me a long time after to trust the support workers who helped me into the home I have now. They treated me as a human being. The Vagrancy Act is no more than a form of pest control of the poor, treating thousands of people as vermin needing removal.

It’s hard to explain the horror of sleeping rough and the difference it makes to be treated with dignity. But having a law that criminalises homeless people legitimises the stigma and discrimination they face.

If you care about ending homelessness, call on the Government to Scrap the Vagrancy Act.

This petition is supported by Crisis and Liberty.