Although Brighton has been named by the Metro as the best city to live in. It is undeniable that one of the biggest problems within Brighton is the amount of people that do not have somewhere to sleep at night. The exact number of rough sleepers in Brighton is relatively unknown but from looking at the city aesthetically it is evident and very apparent that there is a serious homeless problem. Furthermore statistical estimations show that homelessness in Brighton has realistically doubled over the last five years and therefore the amount of homeless people steadily increases every year. To make matters worse due to the recent drop in temperature, rough sleepers are at serious risk of developing fatal health problems such as hypothermia let alone accounting for other societal risks such as the increased vulnerability of becoming a victim of crime. The truth is that nobody should be a rough sleeper, especially in a city like Brighton which is celebrated for its strong values of community and liberalism. For that reason it can be agreed that something needs to be done.
A huge outrage was caused after a man was arrested on the streets of Brighton for begging. This catalyst played a part in yesterdays peaceful stand at Brighton’s magistrates court aiming to raise awareness for the many homeless people who are consistently being discriminated against and criminalised for acts such as begging. The prosecution for those arrested and charged for begging is ironically usually a fine. This insensitive punishment is arguably pointless and very unproductive considering the fact that those who are fined inevitably will have to beg even more to repay this.
The reason that those who commit the act of begging can be prosecuted is due to the law seeing it as a contributor of anti-social behaviour and under the Vagrancy act of 1824 it is an offence to beg in a public place. However, these acts of desperation that are instinctive to humans are not taken in to consideration by the law. Furthermore regardless of whether an individual is begging or not, the police are entitled to move any homeless person under the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014. But where are they expected to go?
The peaceful stand in solidarity was organised by the ‘Love Activists Brighton‘ an action group dedicated to raising awareness and supporting radical change that is necessary to benefit humanity. They promote ideals of peace, unity, respect, truth and freedom with love being the key to it all.
If you too agree that laws that criminalise homelessness need to be appealed then please sign the Love Activists petition here.
There are a number of local places in Brighton that are committed to providing safe places, helpful information and support for rough sleepers:
Feature photograph: Franco Folini