Opinion – Dickensian scenes demonstrate the need to do more for our homeless

Posted On 24 Dec 2017 at 8:49 pm

Walking through our city, it has never been clearer that the housing “market ” has failed in this country.

A toxic cocktail of Conservative government punitive welfare reforms, the loss of homes from the “right to buy” council housing and deregulated rents have pushed people on to the streets.

The recent Grenfell Tower inquiry found that almost all building regulations designed to ensure tenant safety are inadequate.

As that unforgettable tragedy laid bare – a housing market set up for profit, not people, has had truly horrific consequences.

News buried deep in a council press release last week revealed that rough sleeping in our city has rocketed 24 per cent in just one year.

In something resembling a lost scene from a Dickens novel, this week local people raised the alarm that council staff had been instructed to remove rough sleepers’ belongings and issued a fine notice to secure their return.

Rough sleepers are more likely to be victims of anti-social behaviour than other members of the public and such heartless gestures are a grim reminder of what is so wrong.

We are destined to have many more Christmases with rough sleepers on the streets unless the Labour council starts to address the root causes of homelessness and provide more accommodation.

Along with housing activists, Greens have consistently campaigned for the council to explore further the principle of “Housing First”.

It works on the basis that the first thing to do is to get people off the streets.

With a roof over their heads, people have a firm base from which to receive specialist support to overcome mental health issues or substance misuse.

Crucially, they can begin to determine their own futures and contribute to society.

The Greens initiated one of the first Housing First schemes in the country now run by St Mungo’s. Its deeply valued work helps 10 people.

We strongly believe we need to vastly increase this area of work.

I took part in the collection for First Base on Saturday 16 December which reaffirmed that the people of Brighton and Hove care passionately about the homeless.

Let’s make 2018 the year of decisive action on homelessness.

Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty is the convenor of the Green group of councillors on Brighton and Hove City Council.

  1. Angela Reply

    Was saddened to see the increase of homeless people in Brighton Town this week , I was in Brighton in May and was concerned about this situation after seeing a young women arguing with a male over a bottle of whiskey she just got back into her sleeping bag zipped it up and just layed there on the pavement very sad 😭 Angel

  2. Rolivan Reply

    It is no good housing people with mental health and addiction problems if there is no follow up help for them.Most of these people need help before they get to the City.

  3. Rostrum Reply

    Most people rough sleeping in doorways etc could have places in hostels and be positively helped by social services and ngo’s BUT they would be expected to conform to rules and behave in hostels and treatment regimens. Those living that was will or do not want to change.
    The options now for society is limited…
    We can’t lock people up for being a vagrant, drunk, drug user of not conforming.
    We cannot force people to accept help.
    We cannot force them to do what’s right.
    All we can do is NOT supplement them by giving them money and NOT letting the prey on our good nature.
    They act like naughty children and need to be corrected

  4. Richard Reply

    I subscribe to the idea that something needs to change in terms of dealing with homelessness in Brighton & Hove. It’s upsetting to see the levels of homelessness on the city’s streets – but I don’t think this can reasonably be pinned on the current Labour administration.

    The housing market isn’t responsible for the level of homeless people on the street – yes the housing market is not functioning properly for lots of working people who struggle to rent or buy a home but that isn’t the root cause of the reasons behind the vast majority of people existing homeless on the city streets.

    Personally I’d have more respect for the Green’s position on this if you invested your energy into initiatives working on a cross party basis – rather than this partisan politicking with op ed pieces like this.

    Local and nationally politicians need to work together to solve the major issues of the day.

    Housing is up there – but it is far too often exploited by politicians to their own ends. This piece a classic example. IMHO.

  5. MegA Reply

    One of the unintended consequences of the additional HMO licencing for houses for sharers (3 or more unrelated people) in 12 wards of the city is substantial under-occupation of 3-bedroom houses. Many 3-bedroom houses are now being let to only 2 people as the house does not qualify for an HO licence either because the third bedroom is too small OR because of the existing density of “HMOs”. Look at the online rentals – now many places with “2 bedrooms and a study”. There are dozens, maybe more than a hundred, unoccupied smaller bedrooms in houses in this city – which are typically the cheapest rooms for rent and can be rented for LHA rate. BHCC has deprived the city of a lot of cheaper housing for single people through this ill-conceived measure. Ironically, the same houses are perfectly acceptable for families (no HMO licence needed), but it is not families who want to rent them.

  6. F.Davies Reply

    The homeless crisis over the last 20 years, has become an epidemic in the city & pandemic across many uk cities. Words are useless without continued, focused & targeted action. Political attacks & blame culture will never solve the crisis. When will this basic human necessity of food, clothing, support & shelter be properly addressed & actioned?

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