Richard Carvath supports the repeal of the Vagrancy Act, for the main reason that he believes simply to be homeless should not be a criminal offence.
The Act was introduced in the wake of the Napoleonic Wars, and was criticised at the time by William Wilberforce.
Richard says: “The Lord Jesus was Himself a vagrant. For some, vagrancy is part of their call of duty. For others – and I have some gypsy blood myself – it is the way they live by choice; it is their culture. In England and Wales, the issue of vagrants, or vagabonds, first became a political hot potato in Tudor times. The enclosure of common land began in earnest in the sixteenth century. Many common people began to lose their rights to common land. In the early modern era, the widespread enclosure of common land had various consequences, and with the benefit of hindsight it may be clearly seen that enclosure facilitated urbanisation and industrialisation. Today, we live in a largely urban society. Every square inch of land is stitched up. Property rights are great for The Haves. The legal sanctity of private property is a wonderful thing – as long as you own some. However, how many own nothing today? And how many have no hope of ever owning anything? One would think that in a supposedly advanced nation, involuntary homelessness would have been long since consigned to history. Those without a proper, long-term home of their own have enormous disadvantages in life. These are insurmountable disadvantages, with few exceptions. The problem with criminalising vagrancy – homelessness – is that it is tantamount to slavery; vagrancy law renders vagrants as something less than a person in law, by comparison to those people of property-holding status. The exclusion of those who do not own property from the democratic process has not been permitted for a very long time indeed. Why then is there still a Vagrancy Act to oppress those who do not own or have access to property? People are more important that property. God will judge us for our neglect of our neighbours.”