Using empty council buildings for homeless people – my cautious welcome

On Thursday, Brighton and Hove City Council agreed to a proposal from Cllr Tom Druitt to open vacant council offices for rough sleepers. I was asked by the Brighton Argus for my reaction. Here is the statement I provided, part of which was published in today’s paper (30th January 2017)

“I welcome the decision by the City Council for council-owned buildings to be opened to house rough sleepers, but this must be done with proper planning, adequate safety measures in place, and properly trained staff employed.

“It cannot be done overnight and it would be reckless to do so without proper planning. Discussions and planning need to start now for next winter. It isn’t a cheap option, but it is one that can save lives and would demonstrate that we are a caring society.

“BHT currently operates an emergency shelter in the event of extreme weather, and the churches run a rolling shelter throughout the winter. Our provision is in buildings with proper fire safety arrangements, separate facilities for men and women, and properly training and experienced staff.

“BHT used to operate a shelter throughout the winter, in buildings that were adapted for the purpose, and where we were funded to employ staff with the necessary training.

“I would hope that, given the financial restrictions imposed on local councils, the government would create a fund so that such shelters can be planned for and opened next winter.

“If we are to do this, the shelters need to be safe for all who use them, not least homeless women.”

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