HOMELESSNESS charity Crisis says that although the Westminster government has made some changes to the Criminal Justice Bill, it will continue to put people rough sleeping at risk of criminalisation.

While the most outlandish elements of the proposals relating to rough sleeping have been removed, including the reference to smell, the concept of ‘nuisance’ rough sleeping has been kept intact in the Bill.

The powers to move people along also remain, and those who do not comply could be subject to conditions such as not being able to return to the area for up to five years, which could lead to imprisonment and fines if not followed.

Crisis, alongside a cross-party group of MPs and thousands of campaigners, has long argued that the powers contained in the Bill are unnecessary and will only result in people facing homelessness being unfairly targeted with additional enforcement measures. For instances of genuine anti-social behaviour, the national homelessness charity states that the police and local authorities already have the necessary powers to deal with this and explains why they have urged the Westminster government to drop these proposals.

Although the Westminster government has said they will issue guidance to signpost people to support services, this is not a direct offer of help and does not guarantee people access to the services they need. Crisis is also warning that cuts to services, including to local authorities, has drastically reduced the support on offer. There is no further funding attached to the Bill.

Responding to the concessions, Matt Downie, Crisis Chief Executive, said: “We’re pleased to see that the Westminster government has removed some of the more outrageous measures contained in the Bill – following an outcry from a cross-party group of MPs and thousands of campaigners – but sadly the premise of the proposed laws remains the same. People forced to sleep rough will continue to be viewed as a nuisance and they will remain at risk of fines and prison sentences. This is unacceptable.

“We have said time and time again that these powers are not needed. If the Westminster government really wants to end rough sleeping, then it should focus on the things we know work – such as building thousands more social homes and increasing funding for support services like Housing First. Criminalising people who don’t have a home will never be the answer.”

* Source: Crisis