The emergency winter night shelter in Brighton is to open over Christmas, a senior councillor has told colleagues.
Green councillor David Gibson shared the news about the shelter – sometimes referred to as the SWEP – at a Brighton and Hove City Council meeting.
He was responding to a question about Christmas for rough sleepers as some homeless people were still on the streets despite the best efforts to bring everyone in during the coronavirus pandemic.
Labour councillor Gill Williams said that homeless people and rough sleepers would not experience the usual communal Christmas celebration because of covid-19.
She said that it was a difficult time of the year – even desperate – for many homeless people.
Councillor Williams asked Councillor David Gibson, co-chair of the council’s Housing Committee, what was being done to ensure those still on the streets would have some comfort during the festive period.
She said: “It is a tradition in Brighton and Hove for many kind-hearted restaurants to open up and bring in homeless folk and rough sleepers on Christmas Day for a meal so they feel looked after and cared for and treated.
“It is unlikely that this is going to happen to any extent or at all over this Christmas period due to covid restrictions.
“I would like to know what plans are being put in place to make sure that our rough sleepers and homeless folk are cared for adequately this Christmas.”
Councillor Gibson said that the severe weather emergency protocol (SWEP) shelter would open from Christmas Eve through to Boxing day and that food would be provided at a variety of venues where the council was housing homeless people.
He told the virtual meeting of the full council on Thursday (17 December) that about 790 people had been accommodated under the “everyone in” policy.
Councillor Gibson said: “It is estimated that there are a number of small number of people who are still rough sleeping despite our offers.
“Every day St Mungo’s are out and offering people accommodation. It is estimated there are probably about 30 people. All those people will be invited to come to SWEP.
“Some rough sleepers will only come in when it’s a ‘SWEP’ and it’s great they still come in.
“When they do come in, we will be doing what we possibly can for them to stay in and have a long-term solution.
“What we don’t want is for people to stay out on the streets rough sleeping, particularly when we have this unique opportunity to provide housing and we have the resources to provide the housing. That has to be a really important priority.”
He said that people would have their own room and be given food and gifts.
Councillor Gibson added: “It’s not as good as we would like, especially for those of us who would like a more communal experience, but we are in a pandemic.”
At the same meeting, Brighton Housing Coalition campaigners criticised the council for running a “secret SWEP” this year, not publicising it in the usual way.
Anyone who has concerns about someone sleeping rough can call the council’s Streetlink team on 0300 500 0914.
LIKE WHAT WE DO? HELP US TO DO MORE OF IT BY DONATING HERE.