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Coronavirus: Protecting rough sleepers

By: Shelter Scotland  Published: March 2020

In light of the coronavirus pandemic, Shelter Scotland are calling for assurances that rough sleepers will not be prosecuted or penalised in any way as a result of police powers to enforce lockdown measures. 


As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the public are being instructed to stay at home, only allowed to go outside to buy food or medication, exercise alone once a day, or travel to work if they are a key worker. Police will have powers to enforce these rules, including issuing fines. This places people with nowhere to go in an impossible situation unless urgent new protections are put in place. 

  • The Scottish Government must include exemption in emergency legislation to protect people with no access to adequate temporary accommodation from being moved on or criminalised.  
  • Police Scotland should publicly commit to ensuring that no one who is rough sleeping is targeted by any new emergency powers. Anyone who is currently statutory homeless or facing destitution should be supported to contact their local authority homelessness team, who should arrange appropriate accommodation for them, where they can safely follow official rules around lockdown measures.  
  • We ask that this message be urgently be cascaded within Police Scotland to ensure they are fully aware of this exemption and the importance of supporting people to access appropriate services.