‘We’re creating borders in our own country’ – upset over homeless rules

Andrew Ramage, MCC Brighton
Andrew Ramage, MCC Brighton

A church pastor who wants to set up a night shelter for 40 rough sleepers has hit out at the council for imposing a ‘local connection criteria’ for services bidding for funding.

It means rough sleepers must have lived in the city for three of the last five years – or had a tenancy for six months – to access services.

Brighton homeless SUS-180129-100601001

Brighton homeless SUS-180129-100601001

In the council’s 2016 rough sleeping strategy it says around four in 10 rough sleepers have a local connection to the city.

For the rest, the council will try to reconnect the person with their local authority.

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Andrew Ramage, pastor at MCC Brighton, said: “We are at this ridiculous point where we are creating borders in our own country.”

Mr Ramage said he had plans for a 40-bed homeless shelter on The Level, which would be volunteer-run and include temporary toilets and showers. He said he could run it for £60,000 a year, half the amount the Brighton Centre night shelter cost – £127,000 – for just 91 days.

“The reason the shelter cost so much is staff. We’re offering to run the shelter with volunteers,” he said.

But he would not impose a local connection criteria, which he says means he can’t apply for council funding.

“The local authority have had millions from central Government to deal with homelessness,” Mr Ramage said. “The sheer number of rough sleepers in Brighton and Hove is the reason it gets so much money from the Government. We are getting the second largest amount from the Government.”

Brighton and Hove has an estimated 178 rough sleepers, the second highest population of homeless in England, second only to Westminster.

Brighton and Hove City Council said: “The council commissions an outreach service to offer help and advice to all rough sleepers in the city, the service will explore connecting people to areas where they have links when appropriate.

“For the night shelter, which is funded by the council, local connection will be applied in most cases, however some people will still be able to access the shelter if they have no local connection to any area or reconnection work is taking place with them.

“The council will explore reconnecting people in most cases where someone has links to other areas (exceptions exist for those at risk of domestic violence or abuse).

“For services bidding for funding for accommodation services for rough sleepers, we would apply local connection criteria.”

But it said the emergency shelter which opens in extreme weather is open to all rough sleepers, regardless of local connection.