Almost 8,000 people have signed an online petition urging Brighton and Hove City Council to open empty buildings for the homeless over the winter months.
The petition was started less than three weeks ago on the 38 Degrees website – www.38degrees.org.uk – by freelance designer and illustrator Mary Rees, from Hove.
It is addressed to the council and says: “Follow the lead of Manchester and open up empty buildings for homeless people this winter.
“I cannot imagine sleeping rough in driving, biting winds, snow, ice and winter rain. It’s inhumane. It’s also inexcusable when we have so many empty buildings.
“I’m not asking for permanent shelters, just somewhere warm and dry for our homeless to sleep in winter.”
Mary Rees quoted one of the petition’s supporters on Facebook yesterday, who said: “I have been street homeless. It’s cold, it’s wet, it eats away at your soul. Any help, any message just to let the human beings that are surviving on the streets that there are people out there who want to help helps.”
To sign the petition, click here.
The council said: “We run several ‘new generation’ hostels for the homeless that aim to work with residents to help them get back on their feet through health support or skills training.
“We have also just commissioned St Mungo’s Broadway to run the city’s rough sleeper outreach service that works to tackle the root causes of homelessness and connect those affected with the relevant services.
“For the last few years we have also run a Severe Weather Emergency Protocol hostel for the street homeless when the temperature dips below zero for consecutive nights and this has helped hundreds of people.
“Very little council property is actually empty each year as we provide services 352 days a year and that property is either for sale or often not suitable to house very vulnerable people so we use alternative, more practical premises.
“To adapt council buildings to cater for rough sleepers is neither necessary nor practical.
“The council has committed to ending homelessness by 2020 and that is exactly what we aim to do through excellent advice and support as well as a major affordable new homes building programme.”
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