Shaun's story. ‘The fine comes out of my benefits. That just makes it even harder.’
“I’m a plasterer by trade. Never been to jail, but four years ago I went to rehab for heroin addiction. I got through it but afterwards I relapsed and ended up just hurting everybody. That’s when I ended up on the streets.
About eight months ago, I was begging, and the police kept coming over to me and asking me to move. They didn’t tell me anywhere to go and get help. They just moved you. I got moved a couple of times and then they issued me a letter with a court date. I missed the first date because I was still on the streets and not thinking straight. Then I was asleep in a doorway and they came and arrested me at two o’clock in the morning. I was in court the next day.
The court fined me £150. The term they used in court was, ‘Gathering money for alms.’ Afterwards I was just sent on my merry way. The courts didn’t tell me anywhere to go to try and get support. Nothing like that.
The fine comes out of my benefits. That just makes it even harder. I had about £90 to last me a month. It’s not right. It didn’t deter me from begging. I was straight back out again. The same place. I was just trying to survive without being a criminal. It’s either that (begging) or go out and rob because you’re desperate.
I nearly died on the streets after that. My legs were rotten. Six months ago, I went to hospital and they told me I nearly had septicemia, but they also released me straight back onto the streets with no fixed abode. Apparently, they weren’t allowed to do that.
About a week later that’s when I met Chris (outreach worker for local volunteer charity), who helped get me housed. Once I was off the streets, I got on a methadone script and I’ve been clean for four months now. I’m also building my plastering business up again and getting back in touch with my family. My only support came from them. The Vagrancy Act didn’t help me at all. I was already on the streets, and then they fined me. You just felt like a statistic.”
The Vagrancy Act does nothing to resolve the root causes of homelessness. In fact, it’s more likely to push someone further from the vital services that help them to move away from the streets. The Government is soon to review the Vagrancy Act, but hasn’t said that they will repeal it – yet. Until they do, vulnerable people will continue to be pushed even further from support. That’s why we’re calling on the UK Government to #ScraptheAct once and for all. Sign up to the campaign here and find out how you can be involved.
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