The latest count of rough sleepers in Brighton and Hove has shown a ‘significant drop’ in homeless people in the city, the council said.
This year’s count, which took place in November, showed there are 64 people sleeping rough in the city. That’s compared to 178 people on the streets in November last year.
But not everyone is convinced the figures are accurate, with a local charity saying the number is more like 140.
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Cllr Clare Moonan, lead councillor for rough sleeping, said: “There are fewer people sleeping on the streets, the count has confirmed our own local knowledge gained over the last year.
“It’s a credit to all those working so hard in the city helping people away from the terrible tragedy of rough sleeping that we are seeing this change.
“We know together we are helping more people off the streets, with services such as the assessment hub and new supported accommodation.
“But we can’t ignore the fact that we’re not seeing a drop in the flow of people who are facing rough sleeping in the city and who we need to help. Demand is still high. It’s an ongoing challenge.”
It won’t be until early next year that the council finds out where it sits in the national picture. After last year’s count it has the second highest homeless population after Westminster.
This year’s council saw outreach workers and volunteers record people bedded down in the city after midnight and through the early hours of Wednesday, November 21.
The figure was then verified by independent organisation Homeless Link.
A different view
But Jim Deans, who runs charity Sussex Homeless Support (SHS), said: “The council, with support of other agencies, made a count on November 20/21.
“It was snowing and they tried to open an emergency shelter at 2am. It turned into a shambles.
“We (SHS) were out until 3.30am supporting people. Many of the rough sleepers had ran for cover much earlier in the day – we know one in a hostel and he had four others in his room that night, so the count was completely wrong.
“The numbers have dropped in the last month, because the council has opened two new hostels, a church opened 15 beds, and there’s a new hub at Brighton Housing Trust.
“These have reduced the numbers by around 50, so that is great except the numbers increase by approximately 15 a week, and within a month we will be back to same.
“When the church closes the real numbers by Easter will be double. And, on top of that we now have a bottle neck, with even more in emergency accommodation with no possible move on plan, so I would expect numbers of deaths in emergency accommodation to go up.
“We have a council of re-active dramas, rather than one with an active plan. This has to change. We would compliment the council in listening to the public and finally making an effort, but the count made on the 20/21st should not be given any relevance.
“At the moment, there are around 140 rough sleepers and many thousand more homeless in temporary or emergency accomodation, vans/caravans/boats or a mate’s floor...”
‘Heading in the right direction’
Brighton and Hove City Council said the council’s outreach service, St Mungo’s, carries out street counts every two months. These regular counts cover most of the city, only excluding the far outlying areas where very few people choose to bed down. The most recent figure this count recorded 78 people rough sleeping in September.
Cllr Moonan added: “We know we are heading in the right direction. Not all rough sleepers have the same needs, and having a range of services means we are better able to meet these needs. But we also know that the number of people sleeping rough will start going back up again if we don’t keep these vital services in place.
“We urge people not to come to Brighton and Hove without having accommodation arranged. There is a housing crisis. Our city has very little accommodation available and we are doing all we can to meet the needs of people living here who need a place to stay.”