Bill of rights for homeless planned for Brighton and Hove

Brighton and Hove may become the first city in the country to adopt the ‘Homeless Bill of Rights’.

Friday, 26th July 2019, 12:07 pm

The bill was devised by the European Federation of National Organisations Working with the Homeless – known as FEANTSA – in November 2017.

It has been adopted by seven European cities, including Barcelona, and will be considered by Brighton and Hove City Council’s Housing and New Homes Committee in September.

The “bill” sets out people’s rights to housing, shelter, use of public space, equal treatment, sanitation, a postal address, privacy and the right to vote.

Campaigners in favour of the “bill” held a demonstration before a full council meeting at Hove Town Hall on Thursday afternoon (July 25) to highlight the needs of homeless people in the city.

They featured portraits by artist Dinah Lee Morgan of the faces of 20 people who were either killed by another homeless person or had died on the streets. The 20 portraits were laid in front of the town hall entrance.

The acting chair of Brighton and Hove Housing Coalition Barry Hughes presented a petition signed by 2,475 people.

He said that the coalition started campaigning for the council to adopt Homeless Bill of Rights last year with support from FEANTSA and human rights group Just Fair along with councillors and all three of Brighton and Hove’s MPs.

Mr Hughes said: “Some time ago when Jim Deans, of Sussex Homeless Support, launched his first bus to shelter the homeless, he told me about the happy sound that was the bus with a full complement of guests aboard.

“Safe and sound in their bunks, a happy gentle snoring filled the air as the guests could sleep soundly, safe in the knowledge that no moron would be urinating over them or kicking them or setting fire to them.

“Jim had given them the human rights that we all deserve – at least for a time.”

Mr Hughes said that he realised there would be financial and legal implications in adopting the “bill of rights” but urged the council to send a strong signal to the world that it was taking the situation seriously.

Brighton and Hove has one of the highest levels of homelessness in the country and is in the top ten council areas for the number of rough sleepers.

Labour councillor John Allcock, who chairs the Housing and New Homes Committee, said: “Home is the heart of all our lives.

“It is the foundation for our families and the bedrock of our dreams.”

He said that the dramatic rise in homelessness was symbolic of social failures.

Councillor Allcock said: “There are thousands more people living in tents, cars, boats, hostels and emergency and temporary accommodation.

“There are thousands more people living in tents, cars, boats, hostels, and emergency and temporary accommodation.

“All people, homeless or not, are free and equal in dignity and rights. But in truth, rough sleepers are treated at best as a problem and at worst as a nuisance to be cleared away.”

Green councillor Amy Heley said that it should be a priority for all councillors to eradicate homelessness and the need for especially rough sleeping.

She said: “Adopting a bill of rights for homeless people seems an obvious and practical way of showing our commitment to ending this crisis and a mechanism to show our solidarity and support for our residents that are homeless.

“It will also provide a further framework for the council’s work over the next few years.”

Conservative councillor Mary Mears said that the party would support putting the bill of rights to the Housing and New Homes Committee but costs would have to be considered.

She said that she had focused on housing for her entire political career and added: “We must address this problem without encouraging people to come to the city when we cannot deal with our existing problems.”

Councillors voted unanimously to support taking the bill of rights to the Housing and New Homes Committee.