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Homelessness is never a lifestyle choice: Big Issue's reaction to Suella Braverman comments

If you don’t deal with a problem when it’s a social problem then, at times, it becomes a law and order problem, says Big Issue founder Lord Bird

Rough sleeping is never a "lifestyle choice". Image: Michael Coghlan / Flickr

Home secretary Suella Braverman sparked controversy (again) by claiming today that rough sleepers were making a “lifestyle choice”.

She posted on X/Twitter earlier today: “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.”

Braverman added: “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.”

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Big Issue founder Lord Bird said in response:

“If you don’t deal with a problem when it’s a social problem then, at times, it becomes a law and order problem.

“If the root causes of poverty and homelessness had been addressed decades ago, you wouldn’t have this need transferred to the streets of the UK. We need grown-up thinking rather than responding to the issue with a policy that infers homelessness is a law and order offence, which Suella Braverman is doing here.

“Street homelessness is rarely a lifestyle choice, it’s a sign of a lack of governmental policy that seeks to address the fundamental flaws in our system and means people inevitably fall into the sticky stuff and can’t claw their way out again.

“I have a bill going through for the creation of a Ministry of Poverty Prevention, which will draw political minds together to produce a finer level of thinking, focusing on the area of prevention and ways in which we can tackle these problems head-on.”

Recently Big Issue reported on the Labour and Conservative party conferences. One of our vendors, Will Payne was invited to speak at both. He shared his experiences with us, and passed on the sentiments of many Tory delegates he spoke to, which suggests the comments of the home secretary might not be shared by all members of the party.

“There’s a message they give me to pass on to Big Issue readers,” Will wrote. “They are shocked by [Suella Braverman’s] language about migrants. Her inflammatory language is affecting them all. They say, every time she opens her mouth, a Tory seat loses 2,000 votes.”

Moving on to targeting people experiencing homelessness today, demonstrating horrifying levels of ignorance about the issue, the home secretary may have lost her party thousands of more votes.

If you want to find out more about the issue, check out the below:

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
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