Contact and Assessment Centres, which had been a crucial aspect of the Social Exclusion Unit’s multi-agency approach to reducing rough sleeping, were set up in Brighton and Hove in 2001.
It was announced by the Government the following year that the nationwide approach had been effective in tackling social exclusion, and it had achieved its target of reducing rough sleeping by two-thirds. This, however, was widely disputed.
Affordability of housing in Brighton rocketed during the early years of the 2000’s. The Brighton and Hove Housing Needs Survey of 2005 noted that the average prices of flats had risen by 91% since 2000 and 67% could not afford private rented tenancies. This placed enormous pressure on social housing, which accounted for 15.7%; lower than the national average of 19.3%.
The economic recession of 2008 led to a prolonged period of unemployment and an increase in all forms of homelessness.
Changes to payment of Housing Benefit, which included stopping direct payments of rent to landlords, also jeopardised the tenancies of people in the private rented sector. While this reform was intended to empower claimants and restore budgeting skills, what it in fact did in many cases was set tenants up to fail, leading to increased rent arrears.
In 2011 a new initiative, No Second Night Out, was piloted in London to deliver a rapid response for people who faced rough sleeping for the first time. The project was established on the basis that 105 people slept rough in London for the first time each week.
Its aim was to work with people to ensure new rough sleepers did not have to sleep out for a second night, through providing a single offer of accommodation based on a person’s needs and linking people back to their area of local connection. A report analysing the outcomes from the project’s initial three months stated that 68% of clients were assisted to find an alternative to rough sleeping and had a positive move into accommodation. The No Second Night Out initiative was rolled-out in Brighton and Hove in November 2011, delivering early intervention with the aim of preventing people becoming entrenched.
Further welfare cuts in 2012 impacted greatly on single tenants in the private rented sector. Prior to 2012, under 25 year olds could claim housing benefit for a room in a shared house; this was extended to under 35 year olds in April 2012. This meant that a large number of people who had been living independently in studio or one-bed accommodation were expected to end their tenancies and locate a room in a shared house. This presented particular difficulties in a city such as Brighton and Hove which has two universities and where all single private rented sector tenants under 35 years old must compete with 32,000 students within the city.
In accordance with the Homelessness Act 2002 local authorities are required to have a Homelessness Strategy. Brighton and Hove City Council’s 2014-19 strategy identified an increase in homelessness and rough sleeping in the city and estimated that there were approximately 100 people rough sleeping in winter and around 200 in summer.
The vision of the strategy is that by taking a multi-agency approach, working with the St Mungo’s Street Outreach Service, First Base, Sussex Police, St John’s Ambulance and Community and Voluntary Sector organisations, rough sleeping can be prevented through early intervention, and advice and support.
The Council’s 2015 Housing Strategy, a separate policy, outlined that this partnership successfully sustains or finds alternative accommodation for over 2,000 households each year. However, it also highlighted that 88,000 Brighton and Hove households (72%) could not afford market housing without spending a disproportionate level of their income on housing.
In 2015 an innovative 8-year project was launched in Brighton and Hove to bring about lasting change in how services support people with multiple and complex needs to improve stability, capability and confidence. Funded by The Big Lottery and led by BHT in partnership with CRI, Equinox and the Seaview Project, the initiative addresses homelessness, reoffending, problematic substance abuse and mental ill health.
In 2016, Brighton and Hove has a population of 277,000 and remains to be one of the most visited seaside destinations in the country. However it also has some of the most deprived areas in the country.
A Rough Sleepers Count conducted by the City Council and local homelessness charities in March 2015 found 132 people sleeping rough. With 22,000 households on the Council’s Housing Register and a continuing programme of austerity and welfare reforms, homelessness remains to be a very present concern over 650 years after the first legislation to address the issue was enforced.
During 2014/15 597 people accessed First Base for basic amenities such as food, shower facilities, company, clean clothes, as well as a comprehensive package of healthcare, housing and work and learning focused support.
30 Years of Rough Sleeping in Brighton & Hove, Lenna Santamaria, Brighton Housing Trust, 2013
Homelessness Strategy 2014-19, Brighton & Hove Connected, Brighton & Hove City Council
Housing Strategy 2015, Housing Strategy Team, Brighton & Hove City Council