The High Court has ruled a Home Office policy which sees EU citizens who are sleeping rough removed from the UK is unlawful.
Mrs Justice Lang said the measure, introduced last year, was discriminatory and contrary to EU law, after a case was brought by two Polish men and a Latvian who faced being kicked out of the country because they had been sleeping on the streets.
The court said the government must abandon the policy, which equated rough sleeping as ‘an abuse’ of the right of freedom of movement, affecting hundreds of EEA nationals in UK.
A Home Office spokesperson said most of those deported were not lawfully resident in the UK.
“We are disappointed by today’s judgment,” they added.
“However, we respect the court’s findings and will not be appealing. We will consider carefully what steps are necessary to ensure we reflect the judgment in future enforcement.”
The ruling comes as new figures show a sharp rise in homelessness in England in the three months to September 2017, with 15,290 households accepted as being statutorily homeless, up 6% from 14,390 in the same period last year.
The number of households in temporary accommodation was also up 6% to 79,190.
Lib Dem MP Wera Hobhouse, who is the party’s communities spokesperson, said the situation should “shame” prime minister Theresa May.
“Families are being left out in the cold by this heartless Conservative government,” she added.
“Young people are being particularly badly hit by the cruel decision to cut housing benefit for under-25s.
“The government must urgently boost funding for homelessness, reverse cuts to housing benefit for young people and build the social homes the country desperately needs.”
MPs from all parties asked Commons leader Andrea Leadsom to schedule an urgent debate on homelessness on Friday.
She said the government recognised it was “a very important issue”.
Terrie Alafat, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing, said the number of people living on the streets of the UK was “a national outrage”.
We must act now. Today’s figures show the number of households accepted as homeless has jumped by more than 60 per cent since the low of 2009,” she added.
“There has been a frankly unacceptable rise in the number of households in temporary accommodation, which has soared by a staggering 65 per cent since the low of December 2010. That figure includes more than 2,500 families with children trapped in bed and breakfast accommodation, which is often very poor quality and highly unsuitable.
“History tells us that we can reduce or even eliminate homelessness but it does require a co-ordinated approach – that means government investment, funding for affordable housing and a concerted effort across the housing and homelessness sectors.”