Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP)
Coalition members were integral in getting Brighton and Hove City Council to open a Night-shelter at the Brighton Centre and have continued to put pressure on the council to up their performance going forward. The Brighton Centre can only be described as a partial success with 27 people being ‘decanted’ into the pouring rain on the morning that the shelter closed. Luckily Sussex Homeless Support was on hand with the converted bus to look after 19 of these guests whilst the others were found secure accommodation.
The multi-agency Night-shelter Group has developed into Community Action Group on Homelessness (CAGH) chaired by B&HCC councillors and with members of the Coalition represented.
Fundamental to the work of the Group is SWEP and Chairman of the Coalition’s Legal and Advocacy Group, David Thomas, has taken the lead in ensuring that the council opens the shelters for street sleepers taking into account such factors as wind chill. David has also pushed the council to ensure that all forms of extreme weather, which may pose a risk to the lives of rough sleepers, are taken into account – including extreme heat.
Homeless Bill of Rights
The Coalition is at the forefront of taking up an idea, which has been adopted in Barcelona and other European cities – a Homeless Charter or Bill of Rights. It is the Coalition’s ambition that the city of Brighton and Hove will be the first local authority in the UK to adopt such a charter which is a compilation of basic rights from European and International human rights law. By endorsing it, cities reaffirm their commitment to human rights, which should guide all actors towards tackling the root causes of poverty and homelessness.
Penalisation strategies can push homeless peoples further into poverty and exclusion. Rather than punishing them, local authorities should extend a hand to encourage homeless people to claim their rights, the fundamentals of which are set out here. The right to exit homelessness; the right to access decent emergency accommodation; the right to use public space and to move freely within it; the right to equal treatment for all; the right to effective postal address of last resort; the right to access basic sanitary facilities; the right to emergency services; the right to vote; the right to data protection; the right to privacy and the right to carry out practices necessary to survival within the law.
Will the city of Brighton and Hove have the courage to adopt such a Bill of Rights? The Coalition has started the campaign to make it happen for a launch in October.
The Coalition has teamed up with Law for Life: the foundation for public legal education, funded by Lush Charity Pot, in providing training for volunteers to create what we call ‘Street Advocates’ – people with sufficient knowledge to help the vulnerable when face with seemingly insurmountable problems of poverty, homelessness and injustice.
More Work To Do
At the end of this first year of campaigning any tendency towards complacency will be cut short by reflecting on the case of Bobby Carver, whose plight remains unacceptable. The Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) investigated Bobby’s case at the end of 2017 and stated that the council’s assessment raised Bobby’s expectations but noted, probably as a result of the LGO’s intervention, that the council had agreed to an independent assessment from outside the council. In the meantime Bobby Carver does not have accommodation or support services appropriate to his needs.
Barry Hughes, BHHC Press Officer, 2018