As the Rural Homelessness Counts Coalition, a collective of over 20 organisations committed to eradicating homelessness, we must voice our deep concerns over the Home Secretary’s recent statements and legislative proposals to limit the use of tents by those experiencing homelessness.
The increase in homelessness is not confined to urban centres; our rural communities are witnessing an alarming surge, with a 24% rise in rural rough sleeping within a year. This crisis is not a “lifestyle choice” but a consequence of housing unaffordability and inadequate support services, as evidenced by research from the Universities of Kent and Southampton.
The Home Secretary’s proposals, while aimed at urban homelessness, will also impact rural communities where tents are also often a last resort for those without shelter. The measures to penalise tent usage and the charities that provide them are misguided. They do not address the root causes of homelessness and instead threaten the very organisations working tirelessly to alleviate this issue in both urban and rural settings.
Criminalising the provision of tents by charities will not solve homelessness; it will only serve to deepen the crisis. It risks reinforcing the stigma and shame that our research has identified as significant barriers to support in rural communities. These proposals could inadvertently drive those experiencing homelessness further from the help they need, increasing their vulnerability and making it even more challenging to access essential services.
We call upon the government to reconsider these proposals and focus on constructive solutions that address the underlying issues of homelessness:
The Rural Homelessness Counts Coalition is prepared to collaborate with policymakers to develop and implement strategies that genuinely address the complexities of homelessness.
Chair, Rural Homelessness Counts Coalition
The Rural Services Network is a member of the Rural Homelessness Coalition. Research into Rural Homelessness found that rural poverty exacerbated by high housing costs are fundamental drivers of rural homelessness. Severe restrictions in local authority funding since 2009 intensifies risk. Rural areas receive 65% less funding per capita than urban for homelessness prevention who themselves are severely underfunded. Funding for genuinely affordable housing and state support for housing costs are also highly inadequate and have limited impact in rural areas.
Kerry Booth, Chief Executive of the Rural Services Network said:
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