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| December 14, 2018

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Could a Plan to House Homeless in Unused University Accommodation Work for Brighton?

Could a Plan to House Homeless in Unused University Accommodation Work for Brighton?
Andrew O'Connor

A radical, innovatie, yet suprosingly simple idea is being put forward by a group of dissatisfied locals in Manchester who are not about to wait around for the government to get a grip of the rapid incrases in street and statuatry homelessness across the country. The Manchester Petition’s aim is to make use of vacant university rooms by providing them as temporary accomodation for homeless people over the holiday periods.

The idea presents an interesting and innovative way to reduce the immediacy of street homelessness and utilise the empty space created by transient populations. Although the situation requires much more thanĀ  plastering over the cracks with a temorary solution, lots of the barriers and hurdles that rough sleepers face are made infinitely harder to navigate without the security and stability of a proper place to sleep, rest, and recover.

As street homelessness rises throughout the country, the effects of ausetrity and a state that has long forgone it’s role as a safety net for citizenry, city centres are seeing an inordiante rise in rough sleeping. Brighton & Hove has a lot of history with this particular social issue, and has recently seen a rise in rough sleeping of 84% from 2015-2016, with figures for 2016-2017 to be released shortly.

It seems like a long-term solution to the nationwide issue is beyond the parameters of public debate. One side talks about the need to increase and improve housing supply, another highlights the complexity of the problems that homeless individuals face and the concurrent complexity needed to provide an adequate solution. Some argue that homelessness is a necessary part of our society, that at an extreme, homelessness can be seen as a kind of warning to the population at large; “conform or else”. Whether you look at someone sleeping rough out in the cold with sympathy, empathy, contempt or pity, one thing goes without saying; something clearly needs to be done.

While lots of charities, grass-roots organisations and activist collectives, and warm-hearted citizens are donating their time and resources to the cause and are trying to make the day-to-day lives of those living outside a little bit easier, it is clear that a radical solution is necessary if we are to stand up against the tide of cuts, the sharpenening of elbows, and the hardening of hearts.

Via: Matthew Colvin de Valle (flickr)

Via: Matthew Colvin de Valle (flickr)

One such solution has been posited by a group of crowdfunders in Manchester. They identified that lots of University accomodation in the city was unused and empty for long periods of time while students were away visiting family for the holidays, or term time was not in session, and saw the opportunity. The first step in ending homelessness surely has to be providing a safe, clean, and warm roof under which rough sleepers can lay their head. Everything else will follow. Once the short term pressures of finding money for a bed have been dealt with, the mind can rest, it can take a step away from the fight-or-flight mode of living we force upon the homeless, and can start to plan for a future, for a route out of dire straights.

Do you think this sort of short-term strategy could work in Brighton? There’s lots of seasonally vacant University accomodation, as well as a whole host of holiday homes, and empty hotel rooms that are going to waste, and ideas like this seem to present a practical and feasible step in the right direction.

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