Brighton & Hove has become the first city in the UK to pass a brand new Homelessness Bill of Rights and it could be revolutionary for the current homelessness issue. This is great news for the people of Brighton and Hove!
Shelter UK estimates that over a quarter of a million people in the UK were homeless in 2020, not including the ‘hidden homeless’ – those living on friends’ sofas, in their cars etc. This figure is only set to rise significantly stemming from the covid-19 pandemic.
When picturing the quaint seaside destination of Brighton & Hove, rising homelessness may not be the first thing you think of. But actually, the area has the highest rate of homelessness in the UK after London, with 1 in 69 people in the city without a home and an estimate of 4,095 rough sleepers. This makes the news of the bill even more noteworthy.
Let’s start from the beginning. The bill of rights was originally drawn up by FEANSTA (the European Federation of National Organisations working with the Homeless) in 2017 in order to encourage cities and councils to recognise the rights of the homeless. The document was compiled of basic rights drawn from European and International human rights law and the bill consists of these rights:-
- The right to housing
- The right to shelter
- The right to use public space
- The right to equal treatment
- The right to a postal address
- The right to sanitary facilities
- The right to emergency services
- The right to vote
- The right to privacy
- The right to survival practices
- The right to respect for personal property
- The right to life
These emphasise the importance of viewing those who are homeless with respect and to give them the same rights as any human being.
On the 28th of October 2018, the Brighton and Hove Housing Coalition, a group of activists who are trying to change the way that the homeless are seen and represented, launched the Bill for the city and presented it to the local council. A petition was also created in order to bring awareness to the document and to push for a change to be made. This was a success!
The new Homeless Bill of Rights was adopted in the city following a meeting on the 25th of March 2021 with 31 in favour of the new implementation and 13 against. The Bill has currently been adopted by six other European cities including Barcelona. This is brilliant news for Brighton & Hove and this new Bill will ensure that those without a home are given equal rights and opportunities to make a better life for themselves. It could potentially mean that the city is just that bit closer to tackling the issue of homelessness, which is rife there. Hopefully, this will give the push that other cities in the UK need in order to adopt the Bill and take this step forward as well.
The UK has been taking small steps to help tackle the rise in homelessness, with the government’s “everyone in” policy which helped house rough sleepers during the first outbreak of the covid-19 pandemic and providing £700m homelessness funding since March 2020. It is wonderful to see a local city council implementing a Bill that provides these fundamental rights for homeless people and to try and make the city a better place for everyone.
Some individuals in the Brighton area have also gone out of their way to help those in need. Simon Lambor of Matsim Properties (based in Hove) has recently organised for the use of Sussex House (an old police headquarters) to be used to accommodate those in need of shelter and a home. What a wonderful contribution!
There is an abundance of charities based in the Brighton & Hove area that work tirelessly to provide support and reach out to those most vulnerable in society. Some include Sussex Nightstop, Clock Tower Sanctuary, Off The Fence, YMCA Brighton among many others.
Since the Bill was only implemented recently, it is still early days to see how it will help and support those in need in the long term. Let’s hope that it brings the change that is needed!