This is the full text of my article published in today’s Brighton Argus (18th October 2014)
From time to time it is suggested to me that homelessness services in Brighton attract homeless people to the city. This has also been said of drug services.
The reality is that I don’t think I have come across a client who has said that they came to Brighton because of its homelessness or drug services.
They usually say it’s because of Brighton’s reputation as a party town, or the liberal drug scene, or they have happy memories of previous visits, but mainly because of Brighton’s general image. If you had a choice, where would you prefer to be homeless: in Brighton, Swindon or Hull?
Homelessness services are part of the solution, rarely part of the problem. I’m on record as being critical of some homelessness services that don’t do enough to help people come off the street. But there is no evidence that homelessness services attract people to the city.
At this financially challenging time for local authorities, when very difficult decisions are having to be made, I hope those making the final decisions will recognise that, without good quality homelessness services, the number of rough sleepers, already at record high levels, would soar.
These services include high profile frontline projects such as BHT’s First Base Day Centre, as well as less well-known ones that do so much in preventing homelessness.
An example of one such service is our Crisis Response Service which normally gets no publicity. Between January and September this year, it worked with 84 households facing eviction. 57 evictions were prevented, and 27 others were helped into alternative accommodation.
Without this service more people would now be sleeping on the street and, consequently, making greater demands of services provided by the council, the NHS and others.