Homeless numbers an ‘incredible indictment’ on Brighton and Hove

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A move to bring more focus to the way that the council tackles rough sleeping has won the backing of two of the three main political parties in Brighton and Hove.

And an emergency report will be prepared with the aim of exploring more and better cross-party working.

The Conservatives and Greens banded together to defeat the ruling Labour group as they debated the issue, with one Conservative councillor calling the city’s homeless numbers an ‘incredible indictment of our city.’

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Conservative councillor Robert Nemeth said that responsibility for rough sleeping should come under one committee – the council’s Housing and New Homes Committee.

And he cited the cross-party working group on the Brighton Centre night shelter last year as he asked for similar options in the emergency report.

He praised Labour councillor Clare Moonan and Green councillor David Gibson for their work with the group last year.

His motion expressed concern abut the increasing numbers of rough sleepers in the city.

Councillor Nemeth said: “When this administration came into power it promised there would be no rough sleeping by 2020.

“There were 48 in 2015. It should be falling by 10 each year. Instead we have seen it go from 48 to 178 an increase of 271 per cent.

“I have received some heartening responses from the big names in the rough sleeping world, telling me to keep at it.”

He described the authority as ‘shunning’ smaller rough sleeping groups.

Fellow Conservative, Councillor Garry Peltzer Dunn, said: “Brighton and Hove rough sleepers’ rate is running at seven times the national average.

“This is an incredible indictment of our city.

“Anything that can be done must be explored as it is essential we must have a joined up response.”

The matter was debated at the council’s Neighbourhoods, Inclusion, Communities and Equalities Committee at Hove Town Hall.

Labour’s lead member for rough sleeping, Councillor Clare Moonan, told the committee that a verified count took place last month with 64 people rough sleeping.

She said: “We know we are helping people off the streets. We need to see a drop of people who need help.

“We know rough sleeping is significantly increasing since last year with two new rough sleepers arriving every day.

“Considering we are seeing a new flow of people facing that dreadful moment, the support we are providing means we are supporting more and more people away from rough sleeping.

“It is like we are trying to climb up an escalator that is coming down and it is getting faster and faster.”

Councillor Moonan told the committee that the shelter provided under the severe weather emergency protocol (SWEP) was in the Wagner Hall in West Street, Brighton, this winter.

She described the rough sleeping hub as successful.

Conservative councillor Ann Norman asked about the number of former military personnel on the streets.

She said: “Due to the trauma they have suffered, many find it difficult to live indoors.”

The numbers were described as very low.

Labour councillor Warren Morgan, who previously chaired the Civil and Military Partnership Board, said that the number was fewer than 10 but ‘one is too many’.

However, after service, former military personnel tended to return to places where they had a connection, such as garrison towns like Aldershot.

He said that the number of homeless had risen by 168 per cent nationally since 2010, to 4,751 people sleeping rough last year.

He said: “This … is like cutting off the water supply, setting the house on fire and then blaming the fire brigade for not putting it out with the half bucket of water provided.”

Green councillor David Gibson said that the government should acknowledge that the current regulations meant that there was a ‘broken housing market’ which had failed to enable truly affordable housing.

He also asked the council to take a count rather than estimate the number of rough sleepers.