The government’s controversial plans which could see rough sleepers criminalised again ‘won’t help the situation,’ according to a local homeless charity. 

The Vagrancy Act, which made rough sleeping a criminal offence for almost 200 years, was repealed in April but the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill would allow the government to disregard it. 

The bill would be able to issue penalties relating to begging or people deemed to be “rogues and vagabonds.” 

Pilgrim Hearts Trust, a charity which helps homeless and vulnerable adults in Bracknell, claim this won’t solve the problem. 

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The charities’ director, Elaine Chalmers-Brown, said: “It doesn’t help the situation or the person. If you are going to make it a criminal offence, are you going to arrest them [if they don’t pay]? It’s wasting a lot of time and effort.  

“This government is full of just grabbing headlines. It’s easy to say it but it doesn’t mean it will happen.” 

The prospect has even angered some Conservative MP’s, the Cities of London and Westminster MP, Nickie Aiken, has tabled an amendment to remove the clause. 

“I hope it is a genuine mistake and I hope they will withdraw it before the Bill Committee meet. I am confident that if it was taken to a vote, I’m not sure the government would win,” Ms Aiken said. 

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Ms Chalmers-Brown has said the homeless situation in Bracknell is “getting worse” but doesn’t think that giving money to people begging is the answer and more focus should be put on other areas. 

“I don’t think begging actually helps people, you need to work out why they are on the streets. it’s better to give to people who are working with them because they will know the whole picture,” she said. 

Ms Chalmers-Brown stressed that what is really needed is “more accommodation.”  

“There isn’t enough housing, there isn’t enough social housing, there isn’t enough supported housing. In Reading there’s a YMCA but councillors have told me very clearly, they don’t want hostels in Bracknell,” she added.  

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Bracknell Forest Council received 735 homeless applications in 2020/21, an increase of nearly 30 per cent on the previous year. 

Last month it was revealed that 146 households in the borough were either threatened with homelessness or have become homeless between October and December 2021, according to figures released by the Department of Levelling up, Housing and Communities.  

The data also shows that the most common support required by people being left homeless or at threat of homelessness is help with their mental health.   

“They need proper services, proper mental health services. Often people who have an addiction are not able to get mental health services because of what they call ‘dual diagnosis.’ So, if you have an addiction, you can’t get mental health services,” Ms Chalmers-Brown said.