In light of the recent proposed Government policy Pathways would like to state Rough sleeping is not a lifestyle choice.

Rough sleeping is a complex issue that requires a thoughtful approach, rather than criminalising people who find themselves in this extremely difficult situation.

As a charity working on the front line with people who are rough sleeping, we know the dangers that this policy could create in regard to risk to life from the cold.

We would always like to have a rapid housing solution for everyone we support but sometimes this is not possible and for those times we provide people with clothing, toiletries, food and sleeping bags and even tents where possible to try and attempt to meet someone’s basic needs for shelter and warmth.

In the current climate it is becoming harder than ever to support people to find accommodation with private rental prices soaring, housing benefit not being increased to match and not enough social housing to go round. Often supporting someone to find accommodation is a process that takes time and rarely is an overnight fix so should those people be left on the streets without even basic provisions?

It is often banded about that people choose this way of life, in the fifteen years plus Pathways has supported people who are rough sleeping we are yet to meet anyone who has chosen rough sleeping as option. Even when it might appear this way if you build a relationship and spend the time to understand the person you will uncover the route cause.

Many of the people we support have suffered huge amounts of trauma and continue to struggle with their mental health as a result of this. Rough sleeping in itself is traumatising enough without the removal of the tiny bit of help which makes it slightly less uncomfortable and risky.

We supported a man who was rough sleeping who had refused many options and often stated he was ok the way he was. After working with him for a considerable amount of time he opened up and talked about the last time he had been in a property and the considerable trauma he had faced and the high levels of anxiety he experienced even thinking about moving into a property again. Over time we were able to support this man to get help with his trauma and eventually supported him to move into a property. For many people who find themselves rough sleeping it is about so much more than a housing option but requires the right support, patience and understanding.

If the planned policy from government goes ahead, people who have no choice but to rough sleep will be placed at even greater risk than rough sleeping already poses.