Thirty-one homeless people have died while being temporarily housed by Brighton and Hove City Council in the past two years, a new report shows.
The figures have come to light after concerns were raised about how easy it is for people housed outside the city to access the support services they rely on following a spate of deaths at an emergency accommodation block in Newhaven.
Five people died in just two months last summer at Kendal Court, the report said.
The new report reveals that over the past two years, 12 people have died in emergency accommodation supplied by the council, both within and outside the city, and a further 19 in longer-term temporary accommodation, all of which is within the city.
Of the 31, 14 died of natural causes, six from multiple health problems, three from drugs, and two from suicide. The causes of death of the remaining six are not known.
The council currently houses 493 households in emergency accommodation, 365 within Brighton and Hove and 128 outside. A further 1,600 households are in longer-term temporary accommodation.
Officers were asked to look at differences in services available in Newhaven and Brighton and Hove.
The report said that because of the shortage and high costs of emergency accommodation in the city, all newly homeless households are now initially housed in other areas, including Newhaven.
It said: “Due to the demand for emergency accommodation, invariably there is no availability in the city. We will therefore have to place households out of area initially.”
It adds: “Some individuals have been banned from emergency accommodation within the city due to serious breaches of their licence agreement, which means that the only option for accommodation is outside of the city.”
An equalities assessment dated 2017 included in the papers notes: “Concerns have been raised that being accommodated outside of the city adversely affects some households.
“A range of both internal and external departments and agencies … have raised concerns about individuals and households being placed outside of the city due to the difficulties that may be experienced regarding such matters as access to schools, medical services, etc.
“Most of the support groups that provide help for those in emergency accommodation are not able to effectively offer help for those placed outside the city. This is because their services are restricted or commissioned to work with households only within the city limits.”
The report notes that Newhaven has no dedicated drug advice service or mental health service, according to the report. These are based in Eastbourne and Hastings. Advice services are related to employment, volunteering and a food bank.
In comparison the report shows Brighton and Hove has seven organisations dedicated to supporting the homeless with various housing needs.
A further four organisations offer general health services and support for the homeless, while two others help people with mental health issues and three services help people with substance abuse problems.
There are currently 13 people at Kendal Court who need supported accommodation and a further 11 who are likely to need it.
But there are also now 215 people on the council’s waiting lists for supported accommodation in Brighton and Hove, including those requiring mental health support and young people seeking homes.
Of those, 51 are in emergency accommodation, with 38 currently living in the city and 13 outside.
In an effort to deal with the problem, in January this year the housing department employed two welfare officers to support people in emergency accommodation.
Southdown Housing, which provides supported housing for vulnerable people, is recruiting a support worker for people in emergency accommodation who are at risk of rough sleeping. This role is funded by Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government until the end of March next year.
The council’s Adult Social Care Department is recruiting a permanent full-time social worker to work with people who have been accommodated in emergency accommodation due to mental health problems.
Sarah Booker-Lewis is the Local Democracy Reporter for Brighton & Hove.