Earlier this year, when Brighton and Hove City Council discussed winter provision for rough sleepers, they stated that its night shelter would open from the 2nd November until the 20th March 2019.
With the 2nd November being just days away, and no noise coming from the Council that the night shelter will actually open on Friday, I'm increasingly concerned that once again, like last year, such vital support will not be in place in good time over the winter months.
Earlier this month figures from the Bureau of Investagative Journalism (TBIJ) reported that at least 449 people have died homeless in the UK in the last year - including 15 people in Brighton. This is a national scandal caused by Government austerity.
Yet with the Government now directing more funding to local authorities to target rough sleeping, the Council does have a responsibility to direct this where it's needed most - and with winter upon us - surely rough sleeping should be a priority to get right. After the night shelter opening was delayed last winter, I also would have hoped that lessons would have been learnt to avoid the same happening again this year.
Worringly, I've received no response to the email I sent on the 25th September to Councillor Clare Moonan, the Labour administration's lead for rough sleepers. I specifically asked her whether the night shelter was on track to open on the 2nd November, and I'm quite shocked by the lack of response on this. My message is copied below, and I have gone back to Councillor Moonan to chase up a reply, and reiterate the need for cross-party dialogue on such a crucial issue affecting the city.
If the Council faces barriers getting the night shelter up and running, then this should be clearly communicated, and difficult questions should not be avoided or remain unanswered.
If it is the case that service pressures mean that officers are struggling to carry forward projects and plans like the night shelter, this is exactly the type of point that leading councillors should be communicating to the city's MPs - so we can support them taking this message to the Government, giving clear examples of why more is so desperately needed, and exactly how hampered the council are because of years of cuts to their funding. And, if service pressures are behind the £30 million of Housing Revenue Account borrowing that the Council could use, then we need to know.
I will keep pressing councillors on this issue, and am asking for an urgent update on the night shelter.
Sent: Tuesday, September 25, 2018 7:14 AM
To: Moonan, Clare
Subject: Night shelter provision
I'm aware that cold weather planning was discussed at a meeting earlier this month by Brighton and Hove City Council.
My understanding is that in addition to a Council-run night shelter between November and March, which will be run on a similar basis to the one in place last winter, a 17 bed Rough Sleeper Hub is being set up to provide short-term shelter, and allow for outreach workers to carry out assessments and identify support needs and so forth. I believe that both services will be on a temporary basis - with the hub being funded for a 9 month period initially.
I'm frequently contacted by concerned residents about the extent of rough sleeping in the city, and it would therefore be helpful to have an update on the following:
- confirmation of the arrangements for the Council-run night shelter this winter - eg has it been agreed the shelter will be at the Brighton Centre again - which I believe is the plan, the number of beds available, and do you foresee any potential delay in getting the shelter open by the target date (2nd November)?
- I'd also like to check whether there will be any disruption to the night shelter during the planned opening period, and if so, how long for, and what alternative provision is being sought?
- the proposal for a permanent night shelter, which I believe gained cross-party unanimous support at the Full Council meeting in March. If there are barriers to taking forward the permanent night shelter proposal, please would you reply with further details of this. If there are plans to make either the hub or winter night shelter permanent please would you clarify this.
I would also be interested in your initial thoughts on the money allocated to Brighton and Hove City Council via the Government's rough sleeping strategy, which was published over the summer, including what you see as priorities? It would also be helpful to have details of money allocated to date from these funding streams.
More broadly, I remain deeply concerned about the Government's lack of will to take steps to properly tackle many of the causes of homelessness, which I will continue to raise with Ministers. Given your role leading on homelessness within the current administration, you would of course be very welcome to share the barriers as you see them on this.
I do note that in a previous response you suggested that I get an update on night shelter provision from Green Party councillor, David Gibson, and did not reply directly to the questions in my message. I'm regularly in contact with David, and I've also had constructive conversations with both Lloyd Russell-Moyle and Peter Kyle. I think we're all agreed that housing is the key issue in the city, and that working on a cross-party basis is sensible, and I hope that - in your formal capacity as Brighton and Hove City Council's lead on homelessness - you'd be able to get back to me on this issue directly yourself.