THE news that four homeless people have died in Oxford since November is both shocking and shameful in equal measure.

We are one of the richest countries in the world, and it is a disgrace that we are witnessing such a rise in the number of people sleeping on the streets, some with fatal consequences.

Yet despite how much is known about the circumstances that lead people to become homeless, the out-dated Vagrancy Act of 1824 is still on the statute book and still being used.

Regular readers of this column will remember I wrote about this almost exactly a year ago. So, I thought I would update you on how far we have progressed, after holding a Parliamentary debate on Tuesday.

The support for this campaign has been growing since it was first brought to my attention by Oxford University Student Union and the On Your Doorstep Campaign.

Since introducing my Private Member’s Bill to repeal the Act and raising it at Prime Minister’s questions this time last year, we have attracted the support of charities like Crisis, Shelter, Centrepoint and St Mungo’s. And over Christmas the Labour Party backed it too.

I cannot stress enough, it is an Act that was created in a bygone era to criminalise rough sleepers. It was passed after the Napoleonic Wars to address the issue of soldiers returning from war, but even then, was criticised by reformers for being too catch-all.

This law is archaic.

Working in Parliament I met with the Leader of the House Andrea Leadsom and the Homelessness Minister Heather Wheeler to understand their concerns which centre around making sure there is enough other legislation to tackle things like aggressive begging. This did leave me a bit exasperated as this is not the same as rough sleeping, but they often talk about them together.

I will do everything I can to get this relic repealed.

However, after my debate it was clear the Government is still refusing to budge. The only commitment they would make was a review of homelessness legislation more generally. They’re sitting on their hands and dithering around while we stare down a national crisis.

It’s a given that repealing this Act will not combat the causes of homelessness, however, it is a step in the right direction and a logical one at that. Many homeless people suffer with mental or physical health issues, they should not be criminalised for them.

My message to this Government is 'show some heart': we can do better than this.

If you support the campaign, you can sign the petition here: