A prominent Conservative activist has criticized Suella Braverman for her comments on homelessness, in which she caused controversy by referring to rough sleeping as a deliberate choice.
Bob Blackman, a member of parliament and leader of the cross-party group focused on addressing homelessness, stated that Braverman was incorrect in her approach to discussing a complicated and significant issue and suggested that she choose her words more carefully.
Braverman posted on X, formerly Twitter, that she plans to crack down on the pitching of tents in urban areas, which she largely blamed on individuals “from abroad”.
The secretary of the interior stated: “We must not permit our streets to be dominated by lines of tents inhabited by individuals, many of whom are from other countries, choosing to live on the streets.”
Blackman, who set up the parliamentary group in 2016, told the Observer: “Homelessness for people from the UK is not a lifestyle choice, far from it. Every case is unique. People would have ended relationships or fallen out with parents – which is why young people end on the streets. They may have made the wrong choices in life or had an accident and be unable to work. I obviously would never use [Braverman’s] words. She should use wiser words.”
The actions of the home secretary will continue to emphasize her reputation as a polarizing figure. Demonstrators outside the Home Office urged Braverman to cease inciting animosity and alarm. Weyman Bennett, co-organizer of Stand Up To Racism, stated: “We are here because there is a prejudiced individual overseeing the Home Office. [Braverman] is intolerant.”
Only a few days prior, Braverman sparked controversy with his labeling of pro-Palestinian protests as “hate marches” and alleging that the demonstrators had intentions to “defile Armistice Day” the following weekend.
The Metropolitan police attempted to ease tensions by emphasizing that pro-Palestinian protestors have no intentions of marching on Remembrance Sunday, or near the Cenotaph or Whitehall the day prior.
Several groups have spoken out against the home secretary’s attitude this weekend, especially since sources told the Financial Times that Braverman has pushed for a new civil offence that would see charities fined for providing tents to homeless people to be included in the king’s speech this week.
Jen Clark, economic and social rights lead at Amnesty, said: “Of course, the government likes to peddle the idea of ‘intentional homelessness’ – it’s a very convenient cop-out, but in truth the spiralling housing crisis is a result of systematic government failures.
“I believe it is imperative that housing is acknowledged as a fundamental human right and legally safeguarded, allowing us to hold the government accountable. This serves as a beneficial diversion from discussing their lack of progress in fulfilling their promise to end rough sleeping as stated in their 2019 manifesto.”
Shelter, a charity that aids the homeless, expressed concerns about Braverman’s statements, seeing them as evidence of unsuccessful government strategies. They believe that no one should face punishment for being without a home and find it unacceptable that those who sleep in tents could be criminalized and that charities could be prevented from assisting them.
According to Angela Rayner, deputy leader of the Labour party, the Tories have been in power for 13 years and are now shifting the blame onto homeless individuals instead of taking responsibility themselves.
The Liberal Democrats expressed their disapproval of Braverman’s actions in trying to make charities guilty of a crime for simply providing warmth and shelter to people.
Blackman reminded participants of the conversation to keep in mind the “everyone in” strategy implemented during the initial lockdown in England. This resulted in approximately 15,000 individuals experiencing homelessness being provided with temporary housing in hotels during March and April of 2020. This program is believed to have prevented the deaths of numerous individuals who would have otherwise been sleeping on the streets.
He stated that the ‘everyone in’ initiative showed that with enough political determination, it is possible to remove individuals from homelessness and offer them a place to reside.