COUNTY NEWS: Conference centre to be used as shelter for rough sleepers
A room in a concert and conference venue will be transformed into a shelter for people sleeping rough this winter.
The shelter in the council-owned Brighton Centre will open its doors from Friday, December 10, providing shelter for up to 30 people.
The funding for the venture was agreed at Budget Council in February this year, but the council said it has taken some time to find a suitable space in the city providing ‘a safe environment for people to stay overnight'.
At the most recent count last year, it was estimated there were 144 people sleeping on the streets in Brighton and Hove. The city had the second highest rough sleeping rate in England after Westminster.
Labour councillor Clare Moonan, who is the council’s lead member for rough sleeping, Conservative councillor Robert Nemeth, and Green councillor David Gibson have been meeting regularly to organise the plans for the shelter, the council said. In a statement councillors said: “There is a national crisis in the number of people facing the risk of homelessness and we’re united in trying to find ways to help those in need here in our city. This shelter will help many rough sleepers to sleep at night and provide a safe place to go as the temperatures drop.
“We know residents in the city are rightly concerned about people living rough, especially at this time of year when the weather can be extreme. The shelter is one of many ways we are providing help and working with partners to keep people safe and warm this winter.
“People living rough on the streets are at high risk, vulnerable and need help. The average life expectancy of a man sleeping rough is just 47 years old - that’s a shocking fact we are addressing here in Brighton and Hove.”
The council said places at the shelter will be allocated from referrals by outreach workers from St Mungo’s and Brighton Housing Trust.
The dates the shelter will operate are December 10 to February 11, and work is ongoing to find a suitable place for the shelter to run through to March 2018.
Green councillors have welcomed the move, but urged the council to open the shelter sooner.
Councillor Tom Druitt, said: “We need to make sure at the very least that this new shelter is open before the beginning of December and that this winter no one has to sleep rough against their will. With many vacant buildings still dotted around the city whilst people are forced to sleep in doorways we must push to put vacant premises to good use.”
Brighton and Hove City Council said: “Earlier opening dates are still being actively looked into.”
Anyone concerned about a rough sleeper should contact: www.streetlink.org.uk