At a council meeting in January, a Green Party proposal was unanimously passed. It called for empty buildings owned by Brighton and Hove City Council to be made available for use as homeless shelters, with the aim of having a new night shelter open ahead of this winter.
The proposal gave voluntary and community sector groups, who were ‘able and willing’, access to currently vacant Council buildings, and offered support to turn them into temporary homeless shelters.
However, almost a year on, and with temperatures dipping, there remains no news on additional shelters for this winter, despite the fact that churches, community groups, volunteers, and even commercial landlords, have come forward to lend their time, and resources, to support vulnerable people sleeping on the streets of our city.
A 2016 report revealed that homelessness in the city had doubled in a year, and that the rise was the second highest in the country - with 144 rough sleepers on the streets of Brighton & Hove.
I have been told that there could be an announcement from the Council very soon, but I’m concerned that with temperatures dropping close to sub-zero at night, progress has been worryingly slow, and that what might be offered will be too little, too late – given the urgent and desperate situation in the city.
I have written to Brighton and Hove City Council to highlight my concerns about the lack of any announcement to date, and to ask for more information about any barriers to progressing the plans for a night shelter in Brighton and Hove this winter. Green Party councillors are similarly pushing for the plans to move forward with the urgency needed.
I will continue to do all I can in Westminster to challenge the Government on its damaging policies that have led to the drastic increase we are seeing in people rough sleeping. I recognise the additional pressure that funding cuts, and policy changes introduced by Central Government, place on local authorities to support the many vulnerable people finding themselves without a roof over their head – cuts and changes I have consistently opposed at every opportunity.
In the meantime, I hope that the Council expedites the plans that it has for a night shelter, to ensure that it is open and accessible to those in need without further delay.
If you would like to volunteer with charities who support people living on the street, there are some useful links here: