Big Issue, 2 July 2024

“You can’t criminalise your way out of homelessness. How many people are you going to keep arresting?”

This is the message Balakrishnan Rajagopal, the UN special rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, will deliver to representatives at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

His new study finds growing evidence that people experiencing homelessness and poverty are facing criminal penalties for simply sleeping, washing, cooking, eating, begging and working on the street.

The report was published on Tuesday (25 June) last week. On Friday (28 June), the US Supreme Court ruled that cities can punish unhoused people for sleeping in public, even if they have nowhere else to go. The judgment, described in the US as the “most consequential decision in history on homeless rights”, ruled that criminalising rough sleeping does not constitute “cruel and unusual punishment”.

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