Motion Was Passed!!

A motion for making vacant council buildings available for use as homeless shelters was put forward by Tom Druitt and seconded by David Gibson. It was unanimously voted on and passed on Thursday 26th January 2017. An urgent report will now be put together and heard at the next policy, resources & growth committee meeting.

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We have been told by councillors that this is unlikely to be ready in practical terms until next winter. In the meantime we plan to keep the pressure up on the council with regard to (SWEP ) Severe Weather Emergency Protocol.

To support in keeping the pressure up you could consider emailing jenny.knight@brighton-hove.gov.uk and clare.moonan@brighton-hove.gov.uk to express (or demand) that the council must change their arbitrary decision making process when deciding whether to activate SWEP or not. They should be applying the charity ‘Homeless Link’s guidance of ‘Extended Winter Provision’ from November through to February for folk living on the streets. Instead of waiting for it to be below zero for three consecutive nights. They need to consider the rain, wind and other conditions which also have a severe impact.

F.Y.I. Homeless Link guidance

 

Call for emergency homeless shelters to remain open throughout winter

Pressure is growing on Brighton and Hove City Council to extend the opening times of emergency homeless shelters in the cold winter months.

Activists said ‘Severe Weather Emergency Protocol’ (SWEP) was activated in Brighton and Hove as temperatures dropped over the weekend and on Monday night, but halted again on Tuesday as the weather was no longer deemed to be extreme.

 

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The First Base centre in St Stephens Hall on Montpelier Place was used as emergency shelter for rough sleepers during SWEP. Entry was permitted from 8pm onwards, with no referral or local connection needed.

Campaigners are now heaping pressure on councillors to protect rough sleepers by extending the scope of SWEP to last throughout the winter, rather than for isolated periods of extreme weather.

Ree Melody, of campaign group Love Activists Brighton, said: “The council needs to change their arbitrary decision making process and consider the severe impact which the rain, wind and other conditions have on those living on our streets, instead of waiting for it to become below zero temperatures for three consecutive nights running.”

Currently the requirements state that three consecutive nights at zero or below is the minimum requirement to activate SWEP responses.

The Love Activists group has been lobbying the council to apply ‘Extended Winter Provision’ as advised by the guidance from the charity Homeless Link, which would make it possible for councils to open emergency centres from November through to March.

A Homeless Link report which aims to advise local authorities on providing appropriate responses for people sleeping rough says the authority in question should consider factors ‘such as wind chill, snow coverage and duration of extreme weather’ when considering adequate provision.

It adds the aim of the protocol is to prevent deaths on the streets and local authorities should do everything they can to prevent harm.

Ms Melody said: “Love Activists have been lobbying the council for the past couple of years for SWEP to be open throughout winter with our other Solution Based Proposals To End Homelessness.”

These proposals include the activation of SWEP not only throughout the winter months but also in any weather which threatens rough sleepers’ health, as well as imposing affordable social rents on private landlords to ensure everyone can afford a home.

Cllr Clare Moonan, the council’s lead member for rough sleeping, said: “We do appreciate that people are concerned about rough sleepers, and especially in cold weather, and that is why we have asked everyone to support the Make Change Count campaign organised with local homeless charities this winter. With our partners, and under the Rough Sleeping Strategy, we work hard to make sure vulnerable people on our streets are cared for, not just in extreme weather, but throughout the year, and welcome the regular discussion about this at committee meetings and full council. The services we provide in extreme weather are to provide additional emergency support on top of the other services already being provided, and we do take into account weather conditions other than zero temperatures.”

A 38Degrees petition addressed to Brighton and Hove councillor for the homeless Clare Moonan demanding open night shelters for rough sleepers has now been signed by almost 4,000 people.

At tonight’s (January 26) Full Council meeting Green councillor Tom Druitt is set to put forward a motion requesting urgent action on the homelessness crisis.

Original article here

Solution Based Proposals to End Homelessness

We launched a petition to support the Solution Based Proposals to End Homelessness on 38 Degrees. The e-petition has gathered 878 signatures and street crews gathered over 1000 handwritten signatures.

The solution based proposals were developed in consultation with the local community, prioritising feedback from rough sleepers.

We delivered the petition to the council and spoke at the full council meeting on the 28th January, where the proposals were received with warm words by members of all political parties.

The Council referred the proposals to the fairness commission, which we attended on the 18th February and to the Housing Committee which we will attend tomorrow, March 2nd.

You can read the proposals and sign the petition here:.

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SWEP Update: Meeting, 26/2/15

By REE MELODY

I attended a meeting at King’s House yesterday (26th February 2016) to discuss the Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP).

I was invited because Love Activists had flagged this failure up to the council.

Attendees at the meeting were; Tracy John (Head of Housing), Jenny Knight (Commissioner for Homelessness), Sue Forrest (Commissioning Team) and Brian Doughty (Head of Adult Social Care). Claire Moonan (Deputy Chair Neighbourhoods, Communities and Equalities Committee) was unable to attend due to personal issues.

I clarified that we had received a written apology from Claire Moonan. We have mentioned this to people living on the street. Sadly there is much apathy and the apology understandably doesn’t really cut it when you’re living on the street day in day out.

I asked why the error had occured. The answer was a bit vague. “Breakdown in communications” was the answer pretty much. They also went on to say that if the warning is online later in the day, they find it ‘more difficult’ to get people to staff the center at short notice.

They went on to explain that to avoid this happening again, they have set up a 24/7 ‘Carelink’, whereby someone will be allocated to check the weather report 24/7. When an ‘Amber’ severe weather warning occurs, they will then get in touch with Jenny Knight or the Duty Manager to activate the protocol. They will then get in touch with Brighton Housing Trust (BHT) and St.Mungos outreach team to arrange staffing the centre as they usually do.

The council have to follow guidelines as set by Homeless Link. I mentioned that an ‘Amber’ warning is not stated in the guidance and asked who had set what seems to be an arbitary trigger? Jenny Knight said the local council set that measure. 

I asked whether this was decided because of the budget available? Jenny said that IF it was set for the protocol to be activated for every ‘Yellow’ warning, the budget would get used up leaving none for random severe weather at other times of the year, if we had snow for example. 

So, it seems to be the case that this protocol was set in consideration of the budget rather than the need.

When asked why our council won’t follow the guidelines of the Extended Winter Provision, whereby they could (or should) open the centers from Nov-March, I got the same answer. There wouldn’t be enough budget.
I then asked if they would consider opening the centers on all of the rainy days. Same answer. Would they consider the ‘feels like’ temperature and consider the fact that the temperature may start at above zero some nights, but more often than not falls below zero during the night. Same answer. 

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So despite also highlighting that only quarter of the budget was used last year they are not willing to reassess the triggers of below zero and amber warnings. They wouldn’t tell me the amount of the budget as this information is ‘commercially sensitive’…(!?)

I proposed that they ‘find the money’ within the council and alter their budget. They said they can’t because of central government policy. I would need to lobby my local MP to see if they could change things. As councillors they don’t have that power.

They also expressed that they wouldnt be able to open the available centers every night through the winter and can only use them on an ad-hoc basis. If they were able to fund opening one November – March, they would have to have their own building. I suggested they make use of one of the empty ones. They all went quiet! Then said the start up costs would be too much and that it wasn’t an option. 

I criticised Streetlink, expressing that examining the figures provided by the service, when contracted with CRI, it appears to be more of a data gathering exercise. Out of 272 referrals only 3 had an ‘accomodation outcome’ for example. They are waiting to get reports from St. Mungo’s since they started to run it here in Brighton. Until then, they said they couldn’t really comment but will be ‘looking at how it is doing’. 

I asked what the donations on the streetlink website would be used for. They were considering my suggestion of a deposit scheme to help people get a home. Although the donations are not that big, so they are considering using it for assessing homeless people off the street – paying for staff, resources, food to assess someone indoors whilst working out where to signpost them to. 

I expressed concern that Streetlink’s ‘service’ is being presented to the public as an emergency service that can help people off the street. That this was dangerous and wrong. There should be such a service, but Streetlink is definitely not it! The general public should be informed that this service is actually about gathering data, rather than helping people off the streets. We will be interested to see the figures when they come through, as when looking at the ones from December 2012 to January 2016 very few are housed. Out of 2800 in South East England, only 85 were accommodated. Some of these are likely to have been just a B and B for the night or 28 days in an emergency hostel. 

Tracy John insisted that resources and money were being prioritised for preventative measures, to stop people becoming homeless. I agreed that this was good, but what about the emergency situation of people struggling to survive on our streets now!? Something has to change before any more people die on our streets. 

The fact is that the number of homeless people is increasing every day. 

They agreed but I walked out after the meeting disheartened. I even said to Brian Doughty that I find all of this bureaucracy disheartening and he just said “yeah” and chuckled nervously. 

SWEP Campaign Update

We recently flagged up how the Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP) was not activated during a ‘red’ severe weather warning on Sunday 7th February. This meant that emergency shelters were not opened for people living on the street.

Streetlink also failed to respond to our reported concern for those on the street and the fact that the centres were not opened. One love activist managed to call through to someone linked with Streetlink (at St Mungo’s in Brighton) on the Sunday but was told that she was wasting her time if she couldn’t be specific about where individuals were. Completely missing the point that the concern was for everyone left out in the severe weather :/

We have received the following reply regarding the SWEP protocol from Cllr Clare Moonan below:

“It was good to meet you last week at the Fairness Commission and talk about the operation of the SWEP during the recent storms.

I’d like to apologise again, on behalf of the city council for the fact that the shelters weren’t opened on Sunday 7 February evening when they should have been. Something went wrong and we undertook an urgent investigation at the most senior level to find out why. We have as a result put in place measures to improve this process to make it as robust and reliable as it possibly can be so that the shelters are opened when needed in bad weather.

We are reviewing the criteria that triggers the opening of the shelters. This winter, it’s been the strong winds that have been more severe than usual. We are investigating if we can relax the opening criteria to include more periods of strong winds and when the temperature reaches a level higher than the current trigger. These would be temporary measures for this winter only.

The council’s Rough Sleepers strategy, due to go to committee in July, will outline how we plan to continue and improve the service we offer. I do hope you will contribute to the consultation with your thoughts and ideas on our proposed city wide approach.

We are currently in the process of arranging a time to meet with you and discuss this further and will confirm shortly. It will also be good to talk through some of the other issues you mentioned regarding the operation of the SWEP.

I look forward to meeting again soon.

Best wishes

Clare Moonan

Cllr Clare Moonan
Labour Councillor for Central Hove Ward
Deputy Chair Neighbourhoods, Communities and Equalities Committee
Chair West Area Housing Panel

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