Property developer to open empty Brighton building for homeless

Posted On 11 Feb 2017 at 2:59 pm

A property developer is to open an empty Brighton building for homeless people to sleep in after a plea by local politicians.

Simon Lambor, of Matsim Properties, responded to a request by members of Brighton and Hove City Council to help with the initiative.

It followed a request by Green councillors for the council to open up some of its vacant properties so that rough sleepers would have somewhere safe and warm to stay.

The motion – proposed by Councillor Tom Druitt and seconded by Councillor David Gibson – won the unanimous support of fellow Greens and their political rivals. It also invited commercial landlords to make vacant buildings temporarily available.

Since then Mr Lambor offered to help out while Sussex House – a former police building – stands empty in Crowhurst Road, Hollingbury.

The two councillors are now putting together a working group of experts, volunteers and charities working with the homeless to take the next steps as quickly as possible.

They said: “Brighton and Hove now has the highest number of rough sleepers outside of London, with numbers almost double that of the previous year.

“Green councillors, alongside residents and campaigners, have been calling for greater responses to the housing crisis, with a petition on the issue started by a local resident receiving over 4,000 signatures.”

Councillor David Gibson with Simon Lambor and Councillor Tom Druitt

Councillor David Gibson with Simon Lambor and Councillor Tom Druitt

Councillor Gibson, the Green spokesman on the council’s Housing and New Homes Committee, said: “It is so heartening that a property developer has come forward to offer a building.

“Every time I take a late bus home and see people in sleeping bags in doorways, I feel ashamed that the sixth richest country cannot even provide shelter for those who have slipped through the net.

“Presently there are 99 rough sleepers waiting for a secure hostel place and the current wait is 10 months. But even one night on the street is a night too many.

“If we want to end rough sleeping and achieve ‘no second night out’, we have to also tackle the wider causes of homelessness, like high rents and a shortage of social housing.

“We need the government to heed our calls for rent controls, to lift the borrowing cap and to let councils keep all of the money from ‘right to buy’ to put towards building truly affordable housing.

“Although the government is slow to react to the severity of the housing crisis, here in Brighton there is an enthusiasm for the empty buildings initiative to succeed so let’s roll our sleeves up and get a move on before more people die on our streets.”

Councillor David Gibson with Simon Lambor and Councillor Tom Druitt

Councillor David Gibson with Simon Lambor and Councillor Tom Druitt

Councillor Druitt, who also sits on the Housing Committee, said: “We understand it might take some time for the council to implement the motion but it’s amazing that in the meantime the community has risen to the challenge.

“In less than two weeks we’ve had offers of help from charities, donors, volunteers, therapists, fire safety specialists, council staff working in their spare time and now a property developer.

“We are convening a working group to establish how this can be done safely, properly and with the utmost urgency.

“Anyone who may be able to offer their time, expertise or any resources is encouraged to get in touch to help us get this off the ground.”

  1. malcolm marshall Reply

    Why do the need a working group what about providing HELP 1st as usaual this council will drag it feet lots of PC crap put people first

    • Rolivan Reply

      Because they need to create as many not for profit groups as possible where Salaries are usually very high.This reminds me of The Field of Dreams “Build it and they will come”.The City will soon become the Homeless Capital of the Nation once they tell their pals up North what is happening.If they are not from The City they should be sent back to where they came from but not at the expense of the City.

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  3. Windsor101 Reply

    Clare moonan Argus January 2016
    supplying accommodation for rough sleepers needs to be tailored to the local environment and provided in a safe and planned way as this group of people can be very vulnerable and have multiple and complex needs.

    We have considered whether other buildings can be opened to provide winter shelters however we simply do not have the resources and staffing to manage such a facility in the time scale it would be required. If a suitable building was found that we owned, or could be quickly leased from the owners at a reasonable rate, it is not simply a case of opening the building to allow those sleeping rough to occupy in a form of tolerated squatting, we would have a duty of care to all those occupying the building that would mean:
    · The building would need assessing for safety, particularly if it has been empty for some time, whether it needs repairs, has running water, electricity, telephone, working toilet and cleaning facilities
    · With the complex and often chaotic nature of the service users we would have to provide round the clock staffing/security with at least 2 staff members at any time
    · Furniture for residents and staff would need to be provided
    · We would have to manage issues relating to alcohol and substance misuse such as drugs and drug talking equipment which in a temporary setting may not be safe for staff or other service users
    · Considering the high risk in a temporary setting not designed for this, it is likely that our insurers may not cover staff and residents
    Providing shelter is only one aspect of homelessness, and specialist workers and support services are often required to work with people in order to support their recovery journey and move people into sustainable accommodation and tackle a range of issues that a person may be dealing with such as poor mental health, poor physical health, and substance misuse.

  4. Maria Reply

    Those with no local connection are not helped locally, Rolivan. The Council has no obligation to help them.

  5. Carole Jordan Reply

    I suggest the council create a page for this project listing the skills and resources they need so donations and volunteers can be sourced as quickly as possible. I’m sure with the support of the community this could happen in the shortest possible time.

  6. Angela Reply

    Can’t believe some of the comments I have read. Since when did we stop caring about fellow human beings? People are dying in our streets but let’s not help in case someone travels hundreds of miles for the soup run and a few extra beds in a night shelter (which are largely run by volunteers by the way!)?? Believe it or not, other towns and cities have homeless services that put ours to shame. Get a grip on reality.

  7. S Rees Reply

    Carole Jordan: excellent idea. I’d sign up.

  8. Genevieve Walden Reply

    This is very feasible in many of our large cities where empty commercial buildings can be made ready to accommodate our homeless population.

  9. caroline woodroffe Reply

    We really need some proper hostels, designed and fit for purpose, with cubicle rooms and showers and a canteen. Turning a blind eye and hoping if there is no provision, the homeless will just go away is a fantasy. People would then have all the basics and would have the opportunity to try to move on in their lives. Not so difficult to provide.

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