‘It’s a huge challenge’: City reacts to homeless figures

Homelessness is on the rise in Brighton and Hove
Homelessness is on the rise in Brighton and Hove

The housing crisis and the cost of renting are to blame for Brighton and Hove’s rise in rough sleepers, according to organisations in the city.

This comes after new figures released yesterday (January 25) showed that Brighton and Hove has the second highest rate of homelessness in the UK just behind Westminster.

Andy Winter is the chief executive of Brighton Housing Trust

Andy Winter is the chief executive of Brighton Housing Trust

Government data for local authorities in England showed Brighton and Hove had 178 rough sleepers at its count in November, a 24 per cent rise on the previous year.

In light of this news, those that deal directly with the homeless said they were not surprised at the rise, as homelessness is a very visual problem in Brighton.

Some have weighed in on these new figures with different ideas as to why homelessness is such an issue in Brighton and Hove.

Responding the homeless figures on Twitter, Caroline Lucas, Green MP for Brighton Pavilion said: “There is no greater indictment of a failing government than an increase in people queuing at soup kitchens and bedding down to sleep on the street.”

Andy Winter, chief executive of homeless charity the Brighton Housing Trust, said: “These latest figures do not come as a surprise other than that they are not much worse.

“This increase is due to the increasing unaffordability of private rented accommodation, the failure to build new social housing, and welfare reform.

“Fortunately in Brighton and Hove we have a council that is aware of the scale of problem that works well with a number of excellent charities that prevent homelessness and help people to move off the streets.

“Without these charities the situation would be much, much worse.

“But the situation in Brighton and Hove is exacerbated by the inward flow of wealthier people to the city. This has an inflationary impact on house prices as does government policy such as Help to Buy and, according to the Office for Budget Responsibility, so too will the cut in stamp duty for first time buyers.

“Some other areas in East Sussex are in denial about the scale of the rough sleeping crisis in spite of the growing evidence that is literally on their doorsteps.

“The situation will do nothing but get worse and will only get better when central government intervenes to increase the supply of truly affordable housing for rent and reverses those policies that are resulting in homelessness and rough sleeping.”

Brighton and Hove City Council, which recently opened a night hostel for 30 rough sleepers at the Brighton Centre, said: “There is a national housing crisis and the local increase in rough sleeping is part of a shocking broader trend.

“The issue of rough sleeping in Brighton and Hove has been highlighted by the DCLG (Department for Housing, Communities and Local Government) figures in previous years. We’ve been taking action and will continue to address this hardship on our streets. It’s a huge challenge.

“What this year’s report reveals is a dramatic rise elsewhere in the country which shows a need to look at this on a national scale to tackle the reasons why so many people are struggling.

“We’re seeing more vulnerable people sleeping rough on our streets at a time when funding from government is being dramatically reduced, which is having an impact on services. We can’t do this alone so we’re linking with partners and embracing community support to see positive change.

“At the same time, there are many services already in place which are doing a fantastic job and we need to remember how much higher the number of rough sleepers would be without the dedication of all involved. The scale of the support being provided is not always apparent when looking at the sadly familiar sight of people sleeping rough.

“Yet while there is anyone sleeping rough in the city there is still more we can and will do.”