In the Brighton Argus today (16 December 2016) it is reported that the number of rough sleepers in Brighton and Hove has doubled over the last year.
144 people were counted as sleeping rough on the night of Tuesday, November 8. Last year, the count was 71.
Does this mean that there has been more than a 100% increase? The answer is no. It is my view that there was a great underestimate last year and in previous years, and that rough sleeping numbers have held quite steady for the last three years or so. What has changed is the greater visibility of people sleeping in doorways and elsewhere throughout the city.
I agree with Councillor Clare Moonan who is quoted in today’s Argus as saying: “At first glance, the number seems to show a large increase on last year’s estimate. The reality is that we now have a more accurate reflection of the situation in the city. This year’s estimate is the most involved and detailed we’ve ever done. We feel that as far as possible we have included all of the rough sleepers on the cities boundaries who are currently not engaging with our mainstream services.
“Understanding the needs of rough sleepers in the city helps us to make sure the right services are in place. Key to this is knowing how many people are in need and where to find them.”
The fact that the number of rough sleepers has remained relatively constant, while not anything to celebrate, it is a recognition of the work that is being done in the city, led by Clare Moonan and the City Council, in partnership with a number of organisations including the Clock Tower Sanctuary, Brighton Housing Trust, Downslink YMCA, Equinox, St Mungo’s, Off the Fence, Sussex Police and others.
If it was not for the efforts of these organisations, the numbers on the street would be much, much higher.
For example, last year BHT’s First Base Day Centre, arguably the main hub for working with rough sleepers in the city, in partnership with other organisations, helped 306 people to move off the streets, that is more than one person for every day that we were open.
The London-based charity, St Mungo’s was awarded a contract last year which included the target of reducing rough sleeping by 20% year on year. While that has not been achieved in the first year of the contract, I am hopeful that the service that they promised will be effective in helping to achieve our shared objectives of ending rough sleeping in the City.
But whether there is one rough sleeper or 144, just one is too many. We need to do everything we can to reduce the number. I still remain hopeful that we can eradicate rough sleeping in one of the richest cities in one of the richest countries in the world.
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