Homeless person's sleeping bag and possessions

Homeless Black people unfairly targeted by Vagrancy Act, report finds

Police in England disproportionately use the Vagrancy Act to arrest Black people for being homeless, a housing campaign organisation has found. 

In a recently published report, Generation Rent highlighted how Black people comprised of 8% of arrests made under The Vagrancy Act in the past five years. 

This is despite the community representing 4% of the general population and 5% of England’s rough sleeping population.

The Vagrancy Act was passed into law in the 19th Century and makes it an offence to beg or sleep rough in England and Wales.

The Act was technically repealed in February 2022, with government criticising the legislation as outdated.

But the Act is still being used and will remain in force until replacement laws are introduced. 

Generation Rent are calling for an end to  laws being used to target and criminalise homeless people,  criticising government inaction to ease the burden of the housing crisis. 

The data reveals a gradual decline in the use of the Act, with arrests of Black people by the Metropolitan Police in London down by 10 from 2021-22. 

Despite this, Generation Rent’s research also finds that people who are Black are 68% more likely to be arrested under the Vagrancy Act than white people. 

The government plans for parts of the Criminal Justice Bill, which is currently passing through parliament, to replace the Vagrancy Act. 

Campaigners have expressed concern that the current form of the Bill could risk the continued criminalisation of rough sleepers. 

Ben Twomey, Chief Executive of Generation Rent, said: “Any continued use of this pre-Victorian law to criminalise people who are already suffering on our streets shames our country.

“To see it used in a discriminatory way shows even more clearly that it needs to go.

“It is vital that any new laws do not simply re-introduce the criminalisation of homelessness and that the Government focus instead on measures to end homelessness.”

For more information on the housing crisis and rough sleeping, visit

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