The Homelessness Bill of Rights is based on the principles of basic human rights that are enshrined in European and International law. It has been drawn up to counter the increasingly common actions taken against homeless people by those local authorities and Police forces, who deal with their homelessness issue by effectively criminalising it. This can take a number of forms such as direct action against homeless people, resulting in arrest and fines or indirect action using “Public Space Protection Orders”. This policy has been described as a form of “social cleansing” and neither approach addresses the complex issues that are the reason why so many people end up without a home. It simply adds to the many problems and issues that homeless people have to face on a daily basis.
The Homelessness Bill of Rights doesn’t try to solve the homelessness crisis on its own. It is simply a way to show people experiencing homelessness and rest of the local community that the local authority is taking a compassionate and pragmatic approach to the issue of homelessness. Local Authorities who sign up to the Homelessness Bill of Rights demonstrate that they do not support the use of legislation such as the “2014 Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act” against “behaviours” associated with homelessness such as begging or rough sleeping, and that they view any contact with someone who is living on the streets as an opportunity to provide help and advice, an offer of accommodation and referrals to other services.
Housing Rights Watch is part of a European network of associations, lawyers and academics, who are committed to promoting the right to housing and they provide support and guidance on implementing the Homelessness Bill of Rights (https://www.housingrightswatch.org)