Rough sleeping agencies say they are coming across 30 new cases every week in Brighton and Hove, with 1,200 people being helped off the streets in the last year.
The number of people sleeping rough on Brighton and Hove’s streets has risen by 20 per cent in the last year, according to the official winter estimate.
The figure was released by Brighton and Hove City Council this afternoon, two days before its new winter night shelter is due to open at the Brighton Centre, with bed spaces for 30 people.
This evening (Friday 8 December) the SWEP (Severe Weather Emergency Protocols) shelter is also open following cold weather forecasts.
The official estimate for this winter is confirmed as 178 rough sleepers up a fifth from last year’s figure of 144 – and outreach workers say they are dealing with up to 30 new cases each week.
Councillor Clare Moonan, lead councillor for rough sleeping, said: “There is a national housing crisis and the local increase in rough sleeping is part of a shocking broader trend.
“As a council, we’re looking at how established and innovative ways can help all those in need in our city, for example by opening a night shelter in our conference centre during the winter months.
“It’s a huge challenge. We’re seeing more people vulnerable people sleeping rough on our streets at a time when funding from government is being dramatically reduced, which is having an impact on services.
“We can’t tackle this alone so we’re linking with partners and embracing community support to see positive change.
“At the same time, there are many services already in place which are doing a fantastic job and we need to remember how much higher the number of rough sleepers would be without the dedication of all involved. Yet while there is anyone sleeping rough in the city there is still more we can and will do.
“The scale of the support being provided is not always apparent when looking at the sadly familiar sight of people sleeping rough.”
Each week outreach workers, commissioned by the council, are dealing with up to 30 new cases of rough sleeping, all needing individual assessment and support.
Since the last rough sleeping estimate was carried out in 2016, the council’s outreach service has worked with more than 1,200 people needing support because they are rough sleeping.
During the same time frame, the council’s housing services have helped more than 2,000 residents who considered themselves to be at risk of imminent homelessness to either remain in their existing accommodation or gain alternative accommodation for at least the next six months. This preventative approach offers reassurance in a time of uncertainty and avoids more people ending up in dire need on the streets.
The places at the shelter will be allocated from referrals by outreach workers from St Mungo’s and BHT (Brighton Housing Trust). People eligible for places have been contacted by outreach workers.
The outreach workers will also offer support to those staying at the shelter, linking them to services and sources of support across Brighton and Hove. The night shelter will run from 10 December 2017 until February 2018. Work is ongoing to find a suitable place for the shelter to run through to March 2018.
The location of the shelter is close to key support services where residents can go for facilities, such as showers, meals and help for their longer term needs.
The annual estimate figure is determined by Brighton and Hove City Council in collaboration with seven organisations working with rough sleepers across the city: St Mungo’s, Sussex Police, St. Anne’s, BHT First Base, The Clock Tower Sanctuary, Antifreeze and Downslink YMCA.
This year’s figure has been independently verified by Homeless Link, the organisation used by DCLG (Department of Communities and Local Government) to confirm figures across the country. Full details of the estimate will be released by the DCLG in the new year.
The multi-agency group pools data and information to produce a list of all those known to be sleeping rough in the city, providing a snapshot of one night to illustrate the wider picture.
The funding for the night shelter was agreed at Budget Council earlier this year. Councillors from the three parties on the council have been working together to find a suitable venue and open the shelter during the winter months.
Councillor Clare Moonan, Labour councillor and lead councillor for rough sleeping, Councillor Robert Nemeth, Conservative, and Councillor David Gibson, Green, have been meeting regularly to organise the plans for the shelter.
The SWEP is a severe weather shelter which opens in extreme weather conditions. The service is run by staff, including managers, from day services. Due to the complex needs of some clients, we only use experienced staff. When the shelter opens, staff work very long hours to care for those in need and this is not sustainable long term.
The Churches Night Shelter also provides a place to stay overnight by referral from local partners to add to the support available for rough sleepers.
Anyone concerned about a rough sleeper should contact Streetlink. Streetlink shares information with outreach workers and the details are used to help connect the person to local services and support.