The home secretary wants to restrict the use of tents by homeless people in UK towns and cities, arguing it is “a lifestyle choice”.
Suella Braverman said many of those who sleep in tents are “from abroad” and insisted there is no need given the alternatives and support available to rough sleepers.
The UK will follow the likes of San Francisco and Los Angeles in the US, where “weak policies have led to an explosion of crime, drug taking, and squalor”, if action is not taken, she added.
Image: The country should not allow its streets to be taken over by rows of tents, says the cabinet minister It is reported a crackdown would target tents that become a nuisance, such as by blocking shop doorways, and that charities which hand out camping equipment face being fined.
Writing on X, formerly known as Twitter, the cabinet minister 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.
Ms Braverman added: “Nobody in Britain should be living in a tent on our streets. There are options for people who don’t want to be sleeping rough, and the government is working with local authorities to strengthen wraparound support including treatment for those with drug and alcohol addiction.
“What I want to stop, and what the law abiding majority wants us to stop, is those who cause nuisance and distress to other people by pitching tents in public spaces, aggressively begging, stealing, taking drugs, littering, and blighting our communities.”
Responding, Liberal Democrat MP Alistair Carmichael MP said: “This is grim politics from a desperate Conservative government which knows it’s day are numbered.
“It is a new low for Braverman to criminalise homeless charities for simply trying to keep vulnerable people warm and dry in winter.
“The British public raise millions of pounds for homeless people at this time of year, and the government’s response is to criminalise those charities trying to help.
“This policy will do nothing to stop rough sleeping and will leave vulnerable people to face the harsh weather conditions without any shelter whatsoever.”
The government last year said it would repeal the 1824 Vagrancy Act, which made begging and rough sleeping illegal, and promised £2bn over three years to help get people off the streets.
But the opposite appears to be happening – and a recent report said rough sleeping was up 26% on last year.
Read more from Sky News:
Homeless admitted to hospital rises 60% in four years
Govt to miss target to end rough sleeping by 2024 – report
The study said many of the problems stem from a severe shortage of affordable housing and a lack of appropriate support services.
This, combined with the cost of living crisis, is pushing more people into homelessness.
The government’s rough sleeping snapshot for autumn 2022 said just over 3,000 people were estimated to be sleeping rough in England.
Click to subscribe to the Sky News Daily wherever you get your podcasts
Prince William is among those campaigning on the issue and has launched a project called Homewards, which aims to bring together organisations and people to find local solutions.