Brighton and Hove City Council have today unveiled ambitious plans to tackle homelessness in the area by housing residents in vacant buildings.
Speaking at a press conference earlier today, Danielle Stewart, the leader of the Labour councillors, announced that a deal had been struck with the Greens that would see a united effort to combat the issue of homelessness in Brighton and Hove.
“Both the Labour councillors and the Green councillors have agreed to urgent action to put an end to homelessness in Brighton and Hove”, she said. “By working together, we will ensure that every one of the local residents has a roof over their head at night.”
Stewart, who spoke alongside Green councillor Stephen Hardcastle, has long campaigned for more to be done on the issue of homelessness both locally and nationally. Now that a Labour-Green alliance has been formed in the City Council she believes the situation will improve rapidly.
“It is clear that Conservative austerity policies have driven many more people on to the city’s streets”, she said. “Unlike the government, we can’t turn our back on these people”.
The ambitious scheme, known locally as BHBH – Brighton and Hove Beat Homelessness – is set to take advantage of a number of long vacant properties to house the city’s homeless. If a building lies vacant for more than 250 days of the year, the Council will now have the power to use its space for their BHBH scheme.
Stephen Hardcastle, the leader of the Green councillors, explained: “Both in Brighton and in Hove there are a number of empty properties that are able to shelter those in need of housing. Our aim is to utilise these vacant buildings and provide housing for those that lack it”.
Though the plan has seen a united Labour-Green front, there are still those within the City Council who are opposed to its implementation.
The 20 Conservative councillors, led by Margaret Hunter-Moore, have all refused to support the scheme, labelling it “an attack on private property and private enterprise”.
Though she did not speak at the press conference, Hunter-Moore released a statement in which she and her colleagues expressed “a strong feeling of discomfort” with the scheme and echoed the words of Prime Minister David Cameron by saying that they needed to focus more on the economy.
“Taking control of private property is not the solution to this crisis. The issue of homelessness can only be tackled by long-term economic success.”
Despite Conservative disapproval, the scheme has been met with huge public support locally.
Mehdi Osam, a local shop owner, said: “I think this is fantastic news. It is about time the Council did something about the homeless people in the city”.
“There are so many empty buildings around, nobody should have to sleep on street corners and in shop fronts”, he continued.
Local charities The Clock Tower Sanctuary and Off The Fence, and national charities Shelter and Crisis have all welcomed the move by Brighton and Hove City Council to combat homelessness in the city, encouraging other City Councils to implement similar schemes.
Across the UK the numbers of homeless people has risen dramatically in the last five years. Government statistics show a 55% rise in rough sleeping from 2010 to 2014, with London having more than double the amount of rough sleepers in 2014 than it did in 2009.
Brighton faces a similar situation with ITV reporting that “rough sleeping figures in Brighton and Hove almost doubled over 5 years”.
In 2011 there were 445 properties in Brighton and Hove that were empty for more than six-months.
*Names and events in this article are fictional. Any resemblance to real life figures is purely coincidental. Brighton and Hove City Council have not agreed to eradicate homelessness in the city and the news article above is taken from a parallel universe in which they have. I repeat, the above story is unfortunately a fiction.
I took a bit of flack (see comments) for writing this fictional news article, but a few weeks after publishing it, the writings were justified with the news that Manchester City Council were to enact exactly what I proscribed. My article may have been a fiction, but it was a glimpse into what is possible, Manchester City Council have made it a reality and they deserve tremendous praise.
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