In 2017 seventeen homeless people are known to have died on the streets of Brighton & Hove. The opening of a winter night shelter for homeless people at the Brighton Centre has captured widespread public attention in the city and has attracted offers of practical support from individuals and businesses alike. It has however taken a significant amount of time and effort to get to this point, and John Hadman’s full report details some of the challenges faced along the way.
The process started in late 2016 when John Hadman, with the help of the Justlife organisation, launched a petition to the council to provide a night shelter for homeless people in Brighton & Hove over the winter of 2016-17. Despite almost 4000 signatures on the petition and a positive vote from council members to take immediate action, an announcement was made in January 2017 that the provision wouldn’t start until the winter of 2017-18. Funding of £135,000 was agreed in April 2017 to support it.
Throughout 2017 John Hadman continued to work on the project, being involved in the setting up of a “guardianship” scheme within the Synergy Centre under the umbrella of Spacemates Ltd Social Enterprise, with the support of a management team including two Green councillors. John obtained funding through a personal contact, which enabled innovative “sleeping pods” to be designed and built. The intention was for the scheme to be self-funding through housing benefit for the residents or “guardians”, who would take responsibility for the well-being of the property whilst benefitting from having somewhere to live. Sadly the project had to fold when housing benefit did not materialise and safety concerns were raised at a late stage by the council over the use of the pods. The pods however remain in storage and John is keen to work with local property businesses to identify empty buildings which could be used for short-term guardianship projects, perhaps whilst they are awaiting refurbishment or planning permission.
John’s full report details a number of examples of missed opportunities, unanswered communications, and lack of action by the council. He believes these demonstrate apathy by the council, a general lack of commitment to the issue of homelessness and an unwillingness to give it the attention it deserves. Several of these examples have been within council meetings held in public, which can be viewed on the council website.
Services to the city’s homeless population are currently offered by a range of voluntary organisations, churches and projects, plus some more informal services led by individuals who are passionate about helping this sector of the community. These services have now been supplemented by a large voluntary workforce who have been mobilised via social media and who are contributing in whatever way suits their skills and interests.
A new petition now has almost 5000 signatures and will be put to the council in February 2018. It is hoped that this demonstration of public desire to stop rough sleeping in the city and improve the lives of the homeless population, will prompt the council to take decisive action and increase homeless provision.