One of the Government’s main priorities is to end rough sleeping by 2024.
The issues surrounding rough sleeping and homelessness are acute in Central London. Sadly, people living here only have to step outside their front doors for a short walk around their neighbourhood to see people sleeping rough.
In recent years, much has been spoken about repealing the Vagrancy Act to help tackle rough sleeping. It is Nickie’s view that the Act, passed in 1824, is simply no longer fit for purpose. It fails to address the acute 21st-century problems that public sector agencies and charities work tirelessly to deal with among the street population.
Rather than seek to help those on the street, the Vagrancy Act criminalises them.
In place of the Act, Nickie would like to see legislation that focuses on assertive outreach, not criminality, at its heart. She wants rough sleepers to have access to greater social care and specialist medical support on top of the safety of a bed, including access to councillors and psychiatric help.
Many of those living on the street have complex needs: a large number of rough sleepers suffer from mental health and/or addiction issues. Often these issues are a significant underlying factor as to why they are sleeping rough. Nickie wants to ensure rough sleepers have access to support to end the revolving door that too many currently experience whereby they accept outreach help, are placed in a hostel and eventually into their own accommodation - but too often find themselves back on the streets because their underlying mental health or addictions have not been tackled.
In some cases, when a rough sleeper does not have the mental health capacity to make decisions for their own well-being, Nickie also believes the mental health threshold to allow outreach workers to make the decision on their behalf needs to be overhauled.
To deliver these changes requires legislative change. Without it, under the status quo, people remain on the streets as the underlying causes as to why they are there are not addressed.