Search for permanent homeless night shelter in Brighton continues

The search for a suitable emergency homeless night shelter is continuing, councillors were told after some complained about problems at the present location.

The problems included drug use and drug dealing in the area around the current night shelter at Brighton Town Hall.

The complaints echoed those made when Brighton and Hove City Council billeted rough sleepers at the Brighton Centre last winter.

The council’s Housing Committee was told that demand for the service had grown and overspill venues were used.

Up to 50 people at a time were being put up in the emergency winter night shelter – known as the SWEP (severe weather emergency protocol).

They were taken in when Met Office yellow weather warnings were in force for cold, wet or windy conditions or when the temperature “feels like freezing”.

From the end of last month until the end of this month, the shelter was opening every weekend to give rough sleepers somewhere warm and dry to stay.

Conservative councillor Mary Mears said told the Housing Committee yesterday (Wednesday 11 March) that her colleague, Councillor Dee Simson, was concerned about the impact of the SWEP on the surrounding area.

Councillor Simson had received complaints from residents and businesses about intimidating and aggressive behaviour from people waiting outside the town hall.

Councillor Mears said: “People are wandering in and out all night to take drugs and shoot up. Drug dealers are operating. It’s difficult for security staff.”

She added that residents and businesses near the town hall, including the Jury’s Inn hotel, should not experience a “knock-on effect”.

And she said, the room used for the SWEP was not always cleaned up and fresh for use as a meeting room the next day.

Housing commissioner Emily Ashmore said that the message was getting out that people could not use the service until 7pm.

At the meeting at Hove Town Hall she told the Housing Committee: “Until we use a site, we can’t really assess what the impact is going to be and its suitability.

“We are proactively exploring other building options for next year. We are looking for a more stable solution.”

A member of the Brighton and Hove Housing Coalition, Barry Hughes, told the meeting that a council-owned building in Palace Place, near the Royal Pavilion, could be used as a homeless hub.

Labour councillor Gill Williams, who chairs the council’s Housing Committee, said that the council was looking at the future use of the building – potentially for housing.

She said that she welcomed input from the housing coalition on its future and that options for the building’s use would be brought to a future committee meeting.

The meeting was told that a “situation occurred” last week where someone at one of the council’s emergency homeless shelters was concerned about possible exposure to the covid-19 coronavirus.

The council said: “We followed the advice from Public Health England and NHS and put procedures in place to support them, including self-isolation. Tests confirmed the person did not have covid-19.”

The council added that its website had regular updates and advice for vulnerable people at new.brighton-hove.gov.uk/coronavirus-covid-19/care-homes-vulnerable-and-older-people.

And it said that if rough sleepers did need to self-isolate, the council’s Housing Options Team would find somewhere safe for them to stay.

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