The Liberal Democrats have pledged to scrap a 195-year-old law that criminalises homelessness if they win the general election.
The Vagrancy Act 1824 makes begging and sleeping on the street a criminal offence in England and Wales, and states that those caught doing so should be “deemed rogues and vagabonds”.
But Lib Dem spokesperson for home affairs, Christine Jardine, called the Act “abhorrent”.
“Imagine criminalising people for having nowhere to live," she told talkRADIO's Julia Hartley-Brewer.
“That’s what we’re doing in the fifth largest economy in the world – we are criminalising people for having nowhere to sleep."
Ms Jardine went on to reflect on an incident in 2018 where a homeless man died after sleeping rough outside Westminster. She said: "That shocked me to my core”.
“Living in a country where we pride ourselves on the strength of our economy and we are liberal and humanitarian, that someone could die so close to the centre of power because they had nowhere to live - that’s unacceptable in the 21st century.”
Last year the government published a Rough Sleeping Strategy that promised a “wider review” of the Vagrancy Act to be published by March 2020.
The Lib Dems want to end rough sleeping within five years, and plan to put a legal duty on councils requiring them to provide shelter for homeless people.
The Labour and Conservative manifestos also promise to end rough sleeping by the end of the next Parliament.
Jeremy Corbyn proposes to expand and upgrade hostels and create 8,000 additional homes, while Boris Johnson said he will "bring together local services to meet the health and housing needs of people sleeping on the streets".
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