SIFA Fireside, the Support Centre for any adult in Birmingham that faces, or has experienced homelessness, has responded to recent comments by Suella Braverman, saying the comments are “ill-informed” and “in-humane.”
Commenting on her X social media platform, Ms Braverman said; “The British people are compassionate. We will always support those who are genuinely homeless. But 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.”
As a charity that has been working on the frontline of homelessness for over 40 years, SIFA Fireside regards the notion of homelessness being a lifestyle choice as ill-informed, whilst restricting the use of tents when all other options have been exhausted, is inhumane.
Rough sleeping should not be described as a “lifestyle choice”, but instead a “policy choice” that has resulted in a failing housing and welfare system that exposes vulnerable people to the same “crime, drug taking, and squalor” that, Ms Braverman claims in another social media post, will be a result of the occupied tents.
A simple tent is often the last semblance of shelter and security for people whose only other choice is being placed in a risky mix of people in unsafe and unsuitable exempt accommodation, where such “crime, drug taking, and squalor” is commonplace. To remove the option of a tent whilst the temperature plummets risks that individual’s wellbeing and even their life, all to avoid what the home secretary considers a “nuisance”.
The home secretary also claims that “many are from abroad” which is contrary to SIFA Fireside’s day-to-day experience with people experiencing rough sleeping, of which the vast majority is made up of UK nationals.
Instead of treating the results of homelessness, the government should be addressing the causes. No-fault evictions have not yet been banned and there has been a 23% increase in homelessness for individuals and families as a result of these evictions, according to government figures.
There also needs to be further investment in housing benefit as it does not currently cover the cost of renting, making it increasing unaffordable and setting people up to fail. It should also be a priority to help people to access homes that come with the appropriate support services that people need to help them maintain their accommodation.
Regardless of the home secretary’s agenda, SIFA Fireside will continue to prioritise the health and wellbeing of people facing homelessness in Birmingham and will stand beside vulnerable people while they rebuild their lives in safety and with dignity.