Vacant City Council buildings can now be opened as temporary homeless shelters thanks to a motion passed by Brighton and Hove City Council last Friday (January 26). The move, which is similar to schemes run in Manchester and Bristol, is part of the council’s plan to make sure no-one has to sleep rough in Brighton and Hove by 2020. The news comes after months of lobbying from campaigners such as Love Activists Brighton for moves to protect rough sleepers in winter.
The passing of the motion will see community charities and voluntary organisations running shelters from the premises of unused council buildings and will ensure details of when and where buildings are available will be published in advance. Green Party Cllr Tom Druitt, who represents the regency ward, put forward the motion, which was seconded by Cllr David Gibson of the Hanover and Elm Grove ward. Cllor Druitt said: “This is not asking the council to put huge resources into the project but to make available what it already has.”
Andy Winter, chief executive of charity Brighton Homeless trust, expressed a cautious welcome for the scheme. He said: “I welcome the decision by the City Council for council-owned buildings to be opened to house rough sleepers, but this must be done with proper planning, adequate safety measures in place, and properly trained staff employed.
“It cannot be done overnight and it would be reckless to do so without proper planning. Discussions and planning need to start now for next winter. It isn’t a cheap option, but it is one that can save lives and would demonstrate that we are a caring society.”
The scheme, which was backed by councillors from all parties, has received and overwhelmingly positive reaction from the public. Cllr Druitt’s Tweet celebrating the passing of the motion has been seen by more than 82,000 people and shared more than 2700 times, with many saying they are inspired to urge their local authority to follow suit.
Brighton and Hove has become infamous for its homeless crisis in recent years, with an estimated 4,095 people sleeping rough or in temporary or emergency accommodation. This means one in 69 residents is homeless, according to analysis by Shelter. This makes Brighton and Hove the city with the highest rate of homelessness in England outside of London. It has also experienced the biggest increase in the number of rough sleepers anywhere in the country in the past year, according to Government figures released this month.
For advice on how to help Brighton’s rough sleepers this winter, click here.