A little less conversation, a little more action urged as councillors debate rough sleeping

Former council leader Mary Mears urged housing chiefs to spend less time on strategies for tackling rough sleeping and homelessness and more time taking action.

Councillor Mears said that over the years she had seen so many strategies that she suspected there was a vault somewhere in Brighton and Hove that housed them all.

She said: “The most important thing is that it doesn’t take up too much officer time – and the last one did – and that we implement what’s in there. It’s what works on the ground.”

The long-serving Conservative councillor also said that the government had announced an extra £10 million in winter funding to help the homeless.

She said: “If there’s any money going, we need to put our hands up. We need to be in there.

“I’ve got a holly tree and my holly tree is smothered in red berries. An old wives’ tale tells you when you have loads of berries you’re in for a really bad cold winter.

“We need to take steps now. If there is more money available, we need to ensure we’re applying for it.”

Larissa Reed, Brighton and Hove City Council’s executive director of neighbourhoods, communities and housing, said: “We are aware of the funding and we are applying for the funding.”

The exchange took place as the council’s Housing Committee approved a consultation on its Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Strategy 2020-25.

The council has to produce the strategy by law and was expected to consult the community including people who were homeless.

Labour councillor Peter Atkinson spoke about the council’s work to prevent people from becoming homeless saying that prevention was “much better than cure”.

He said: “Looking at the main causes of homelessness between January and March this year the Housing Options Team worked on 278 prevention or relief cases.

“Of those, 33 per cent were people who’d been evicted by family or friends and 23 per cent were as a result of the ending of a private rented tenancy which obviously provides a strong case for the end of no-fault evictions and improving rental security.

“Sadly 21 households were recognised formally as homeless – 21 too many – but it could have been so much worse.”

Councillor Peter Atkinson

Councillor Atkinson said that it had made him recognise the important work carried out by the Housing Options Team and he added: “We need to take a look at what actually prevents homelessness.”

He cited conciliation, rent arrears resolution work and family mediation as among the techniques being employed.

Councillor Atkinson also asked for a better understanding of “imported homelessness” which he said was “a rather clumsy way to put it”.

He said that St Mungo’s already tried to help people who were homeless and who had no connection with Brighton and Hove but who came to the city without any accommodation here.

He said: “We need to try to reconnect them with their home town or city and we need feedback on how effective that work is.

“It really worries me that we have a significant homeless problem of our own but we have people coming into the city who don’t have accommodation either and that only adds to the problem.”

Housing official Justine Harris said that this would be looked at before a draft version of the strategy was presented to the committee in January.

Subject to agreement, the final version of the Homelessness and Rough Strategy would be adopted next March.

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