10 February 2017
Green Councillors have been approached by a commercial landlord with an offer of short-term use of a building in Brighton as a temporary respite for the homeless.
The news follows a successful Green Group motion to full council, which called for all empty Council buildings to be made available for use as temporary shelters for rough sleepers in the city. The motion, which received unanimous support, also invites local private property owners and businesses to lend their support to the initiative.
In response to the offer, housing committee members Councillors Tom Druitt and David Gibson are bringing together a working group of homelessness charities, experts and volunteers to see how the use of the building can be progressed as quickly and safely as possible.
Latest figures revealed that Brighton and Hove now has the highest number of rough sleepers outside of London, with numbers almost double that of the previous year.
Green Councillors, alongside residents and campaigners have been calling for greater responses to the housing crisis, with a petition on the issue started by a local resident receiving over 4,000 signatures.
Councillor David Gibson, Green Spokesperson on the Council’s Housing Committee, commented:
“It is so heartening that a property developer has come forward to offer a building. Every time I take a late bus home and see people in sleeping bags in doorways, I feel ashamed that the sixth richest country cannot even provide shelter for those who have slipped through the net. Presently there are 99 rough sleepers waiting for a secure hostel place and the current wait is 10 months; but even one night on the street is a night too many.
“If we want to end rough sleeping and achieve "no second night out" we have to also tackle the wider causes of homelessness, like high rents and a shortage of social housing. We need the Government to heed our calls for rent controls, to lift the borrowing cap, and to let Councils keep all of the money from ‘Right-To-Buy’ to put towards building truly affordable housing. Although the Government is slow to react to the severity of the housing crisis, here in Brighton there is an enthusiasm for the empty buildings initiative to succeed, so let’s roll our sleeves up and get a move on before more people die on our streets.”
Fellow housing committee member Tom Druitt, who proposed the motion, added:
“We understand it might take some time for the Council to implement the Motion, but it's amazing that in the meantime the community has risen to the challenge.
“In less than two weeks we've had offers of help from charities, donors, volunteers, therapists, fire safety specialists, council staff working in their spare time and now a property developer. We are convening a working group to establish how this can be done safely, properly and with the utmost urgency. Anyone who may be able to offer their time, expertise or any resources is encouraged to get in touch to help us get this off the ground.”