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How Suella Braverman's callous tent crackdown has inspired people to tackle homelessness

The home secretary caused widespread anger with her claim that rough sleeping is a ‘lifestyle choice’. But it has inspired people to increase efforts to end homelessness, including comedians Joe Lycett and Simon Harris

Suella Braverman

Suella Braverman's comments on rough sleeping have sparked fury – and inspired action. Image: UK Home Office

Suella Braverman’s proposal to ban the use of tents to support rough sleepers triggered widespread anger this week – but it was a notable absentee from the King’s Speech.

There was no sign of the plan, which could see charities facing fines for giving people experiencing homelessness a tent as shelter, as King Charles laid out the government’s roadmap for the latest parliamentary session.

But Braverman’s idea on tackling rough sleeping – which is “undergoing scrutiny” – and her assertion that people on the street are there as a “lifestyle choice” has attracted widespread condemnation.

That includes criticism from Big Issue founder Lord John Bird, who said: “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.”

And even anger among other MPs in the Conservative Party. Colchester MP Richard Graham distanced himself from Braverman’s comments. He said: “Tone matters. It’s our duty to calm not inflame: to reduce, not increase, tensions.

“The language of the home secretary whether on tents or on marches is unhelpful to cohesion in our communities and is not in my name.”

Suella Braverman’s approach has also inspired more than 100,000 people to sign a petition calling for her to scrap the plans.

Others have chosen to turn the row into more support for homelessness charities.

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Joe Lycett raised more than £50,000 in two days for Crisis just with a photo of a bowl of potpourri.

The comedian disagreed with his “old friend” Braverman’s assertion that rough sleeping is a “lifestyle choice” and instead argued that decorating your bathroom with a bowl of potpourri was more accurate, as was going fishing or wearing cargo pants.

After Lycett’s fundraising bid raised thousands for the charity, he said on Tuesday (7 November): “I woke up this morning to see that a picture of a bowl of potpourri I posted just over two days ago has raised £50,000 for Crisis. A huge thank you to everyone who donated for their generosity.

“Of course my main thanks must go to Suella: without your lifestyle choice, of being callous and cruel towards the most vulnerable people in society, none of this would’ve happened. There’s another choice coming to all of us fairly soon. It’s known as an election. Best of luck with it babe.”

Matt Downie, Crisis chief executive, thanked Lycett and his supporters for their contribution. 

“Joe, like many of us, knows that rough sleeping is not a lifestyle choice. It’s the consequence of policy choices, a failure to build the genuinely affordable social homes we so desperately need and a lack of investment in mental health services,” said Downie.  

“The money raised will help us to continue supporting thousands of people experiencing the hardship and isolation of homelessness through our frontline services across Britain. It will also help us campaign vocally for the changes needed so that no-one is forced to sleep on the streets.” 

Lycett wasn’t the only comic to take action.

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Simon Harris has raised more than £5,000 so far for homelessness charity Under One Sky with an online fundraiser.

However, there’s only one condition.

Harris said: “Please note that under no account should anyone donating use the more-common four-letter word for a ‘triangular shelter prism’ that rhymes with ‘bent’. This is to avoid falling foul of new laws being introduced by the home secretary. You may however refer to them as ‘Toblerhomes’ if you wish.”

If you want to prove to Suella Braverman that street homelessness is not a “lifestyle choice”, you can also support the Big Issue.

This week we launched the Big Issue Winter Support Kit. For £34.99, you get four copies of the magazine, while the vendor receives a Big Issue beanie hat to keep warm, a hot drink and a lunch item to keep vendors fuelled, supported by Greggs. The vendor will also receive equipment to increase earnings through cashless transactions and a personalised support plan, including sales and employment training from the Big Issue’s Frontline Team.

Of course, you can also continue to support your local vendor by buying a magazine each week or consider purchasing a subscription.

“This Christmas we are asking people to come together and bring warmth, support, and hope to as many vendors as possible,” said Big Issue founder Lord Bird.

Do you have a story to tell or opinions to share about this? We want to hear from you. Get in touch and tell us more.

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