It’s time for tough love not warm words to help Brighton’s rough sleepers

Posted On 08 Oct 2018 at 8:14 pm

I want to acknowledge the contribution of the hundreds of volunteers, community groups such as Off the Fence, Sussex Homeless Support and the Churches Network, various donors and fundraisers, and those in employment, who go over and above what is required, particularly at BHCC, BHT and St Mungo’s.

Over the past year, I have really started to research and understand in depth the rough sleeping problem that we have locally, and this began as Conservative representative on the three-councillor Brighton Centre Night Shelter Working Group.

It was here that I started learning the ropes, in the good company of Councillors Clare Moonan and David Gibson, and witnessed some phenomenal work from volunteers and council officers.

So while today is not an opportunity to vote on the council Rough Sleeping Strategy itself, I can’t in any good conscience do anything to embrace it at all. It’s clearly not working. So I won’t even be noting it. I feel that strongly against it.

The Medical

I think that the right rough-sleeping strategy would be a much more unpopular document. Real battles need to be had if this problem is going to be solved. Quite frankly, I’d like to see the current document shredded and the existing managerial and facilitational approach scrapped.

There should be no “business as usual” in constructing such a paper. Writing it and releasing it would take real guts, some of which was exhibited by this council in introducing litter fines and public space protection orders.

Not tackling head-on street-drinking and begging is clearly bad for everyone. A loving approach to a person in need is not to allow them to sit on the street and drink themselves to death. None of us wants that. It hurts so many, including the retail and tourist industries which provide many of the funds and job opportunities that are required to tackle rough sleeping properly.

The same goes for allowing tents on busy streets. Any streets. The existing situation in Brighton and Hove is an avoidable national embarrassment and incredibly cruel towards those who need love, help and guidance.

Not speaking out strongly against middle-class drug users, who ultimately bring the drug dealers here, is a huge mistake as we have seen at The Level, in Brighton. Middle-class support for drugs is killing our most vulnerable. Middle-class drug facilitators need to be told this – the subject was broached by Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick last month.

Not tackling head-on the funding of drug-dealers through what I think is a very selfish act of giving large amounts of cash to beggars is a tragedy. More guts are required to say this. It’s in the council’s Rough Sleeping Strategy update report but it’s in very small print.

If the only reason that we are not doing this forcefully is the emotional trauma that might be inflicted on those who are donating, then we really need to think about who we are protecting. Donations should go to grassroots charities. People donating who claim to care should do more.

Concentrating hostels and services in the city centre is a big mistake. It’s potentially a huge driver of the circle of deprivation. And I say this very much with the success stories of George Williams House and Emmaus in Portslade in mind. A rethink is required here.

If we truly care about the people sleeping rough on our streets, at most risk of violence and often lost to drink and drugs, it’s time for tough love not warm words.

Councillor Robert Nemeth is a Conservative member of Brighton and Hove City Council.

  1. mary kalmus Reply

    Hi Robert
    Not having read the strategy, I couldn’t make head nor tail of your article. I would really love it if you would rewrite it setting out far more clearly your views as to what should, not what should not, be done to help those in need of support on our streets, as well as the general populace of Brighton and Hove. Look forward to hearing from you.

    • Cllr Robert Nemeth Reply

      Hi there. I will try. I won’t be giving up when it comes to stopping deaths on our streets. Hopefully more information will naturally follow as a proper debate begins to emerge.

  2. Tailor Reply

    Hi Robert

    Good luck getting funding from your own party for your draconian ideas.

    • Cllr Robert Nemeth Reply

      Hi Tailor. What exactly was draconian? Telling people that it’s not safe on the streets where they have a good chance of dying? Or shall we just pretend that all’s well there so that you can keep pretending that you are the caring one?

      • Tailor Reply

        Dear Robert

        Please read housing first comment, this covers why people are not safe on the streets and why they have a good chance of dying. It also give the reason why it is impossible to pretend ‘all is well’ as we see the result in the streets every day

        Your ‘out of sight’ proposal is harsh and serve as you offer no detail of how you would change policy that would help homeless people further than what is already in place. Your thought that by making Brighton Street a nicer place by removing the homeless and that this will increased tourism and business which will in turn help the homeless is misplaced. Many will take a long time to recover before they will be ready for what you offer and this you need to adddress.

        Or you could take the easy route and just keep say we are all pretending we care.

  3. Housing First Reply

    Robert,

    You criticise the current approach to roughsleeping in the city, but completely ignore the real causes. The Tory government by introducing austerity measures that massively cut public services, and welfare benefits has raised homeless exponentially in the last 10 years. By limiting the building of social housing, and continuing to offer incentives to right to buy, your party has further reduced the amount of council housing, limiting accommodation options for those on low incomes or out of work.Tory policies have contributed to the housing bubble by pushing up prices and rental values whilst freezing housing benefit LHA rates for 5 years. Your cuts to local government have closed many of the alcohol & drug rehab centres that used to help people with addictions. You offer no real solutions to homelessness, but just seem to want to move roughsleepers away from our city centre, so that it looks cleaner for tourists.

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