Helena Kitto is a third-year PhD student at Keele University. (1,097 words)
Homelessness and law
Homelessness is complicated to talk about from a legislative perspective. The Housing (Homeless Persons) Act 1977 is the first piece of English legislation that specifically pertains to homeless people, but other laws have been applied to people who are homeless, most infamously the Vagrancy Act 1824. Following the Housing (Homeless Persons) Act, there is now the Homelessness Act 2002, and later the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017. Another piece of legislation that does not specifically apply to homeless people, but nevertheless has significantly impacted them, is the Care Act 2014, primarily due to the changes the Act made to adult safeguarding in England.
These laws span a number of legal domains, from criminal concerns to property to social care. This is where the complications of discussing homelessness from a legislative perspective arise, because they require a degree of contextual understanding of several different areas of legal concern. Concepts like responsibility, entitlement and safeguarding can be hard to define.
One way to view homelessness legislation could be as in a state of evolution. A chronological analysis of laws that pertain to homeless people (including those that are not specifically about them) shows a gradual move away from viewing homelessness in a punitive fashion, or one that is exclusively a concern of housing and entitlement to housing support, to one that acknowledges homelessness as bringing in adult safeguarding and public health. Continue reading