I am absolutely delighted that Brighton and Hove City Council has identified a building that can be used to provide shelter for up to 30 people sleeping rough this winter.
Huge credit should go to Cllr Moonan (Labour councillor and lead councillor for rough sleeping), Cllr Robert Nemeth (Conservative) and Cllr David Gibson (Green), who have organised the plans for the shelter, along with Council officers.
This initiative was triggered by a Notice of Motion by Cllr Tom Druitt at a Council meeting at the beginning of the year. I am delighted this initiative has enjoyed, as it should, all party support.
This achievement is no easy feat. It is an incredibly complex proposal to set something up that is safe for all those who will use it during the worst of the winter months, particularly women and young people. BHT has recently published a report on the experience of women in homelessness services. The report can be found here https://www.bht.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/BHT-Impact-Report-2017-Women-and-Homelessness-final-RGB-web.pdf
The three councillors put out a statement which I reproduce here: “There is a national crisis in the number of people facing the risk of homelessness and we’re united in trying to find ways to help those in need here in our city. This shelter will help many rough sleepers to sleep at night and provide a safe place to go as the temperatures drop.
“We know residents in the city are rightly concerned about people living rough, especially at this time of year when the weather can be extreme. The shelter is one of many ways we are providing help and working with partners to keep people safe and warm this winter.
“People living rough on the streets are at high risk, vulnerable and need help. The average life expectancy of a man sleeping rough is just 47 years old – that’s a shocking fact we are addressing here in Brighton & Hove.”
This shelter will be just a part of how we as a City are responding to the rough crisis we are facing. Several churches open up night shelters during the winter, and BHT co-ordinates SWEP – the Severe Weather Emergency Protocol – where three shelters accommodation around 70 people, can open at short notice in the most extreme weather conditions in order to preserve life.
These are, of course, not permanent solutions, and should not be seen as such. Rough sleeping and homelessness in general is exacerbated by the shortage of accommodation with rents that people can afford.
Throughout the year some excellent work is carried out by a range of organisations to help people move off the streets and into accommodation. For our part, BHT runs First Base Day Centre that works with, on average, 70 people each day, providing toilet facilities, showers, clean and dry clothes, hot drinks and food, as well as advice and guidance to help people in accommodation.
We also run a 52 bed hostel, the Phase One Project that is often the first accommodation for people moving off the streets. Our specialist alcohol and drug, mental health and other services provide a pathway to help people address some of the issues that either led to them rough sleeping or making it hard for them to secure accommodation.
As for the winter shelter, we should congratulate the City Council for providing another piece in the jigsaw in tackling rough sleeping.