Brighton could become the first UK city to have a homeless bill of rights

The council will debate whether to protect 13 rights for rough sleepers tomorrow following a 2,000-signature petition

Brighton could set a new precedent for UK cities when councillors debate whether to adopt a homeless bill of rights tomorrow.

The city council will be asked if they will sign up to enshrine 13 rights for homeless people at tomorrow’s full council meeting, covering access to decent emergency accommodation, the right to use public spaces, the right to vote, to privacy and to equal treatment among others.

The campaign to protect homeless people’s rights aims to place human rights above a housing situation and protect society’s most vulnerable from discrimination.

The push has been spearheaded by Brighton and Hove Housing Coalition, who launched their campaign in October and secured 2,500 signatures on a petition to make the local authority take note.

If they do greenlight the adoption of the bill of rights tomorrow, the council will be first in the UK to do so, following in the footsteps of six other cities in Europe, including Barcelona.

The bill was originally published by the European Federation of National Organisations Working with the Homeless (FEANTSA), who are supporting the Brighton campaign alongside campaigners Housing Rights Watch and Just Fair.

We accept that these things take time – by adopting it we don’t expect to eradicate homelessness in one stroke, it’s going to be a long-term thing

Barry Hughes, acting chairman of the Brighton & Hove Housing Coalition, told The Big Issue that the sheer scale of rough sleeping in Brighton means that it is crucial that the bill of rights is adopted.

The official rough sleeping count places Brighton in the top 10 in the country – down to 64 people last year from 178 in 2017, although these figures are thought to be an underestimate.

“Outside London we have perhaps the biggest street sleeping problem and it has been an enormous problem,” he said.

“We want them to adopt it. And we want them to adopt it tomorrow, we don’t want any shilly-shallying. We accept that these things take time – by adopting it we don’t expect to eradicate homelessness in one stroke, it’s going to be a long-term thing. But this is a set of principles which we want the council to sign up to.

“What we have managed to do with the Coalition is hold the council’s feet to the fire, as a result of what we have done the council has opened a night shelter, implemented emergency provision without conforming with government guidelines. They have taken that on board.”

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Hughes’ group will be leading a demonstration ahead of tomorrow’s debate, kicking off from Hove Town Hall at 2.30pm tomorrow.

Following the march, the Coalition will learn if their campaign has been successful with Conservative housing spokesperson Mary Mears already citing concerns of whether the local authority can afford the bill.

She said: “We need action on homelessness in the city, but this bill has a lot of legal and financial implications.

“It is a good start because we need to stop focusing on small incidents and link together the bigger picture.”

A Labour Homelessness Campaign spokesperson added: “We fully endorse the homeless bill of rights, and we call on Brighton and Hove Council to adopt it. Too often across the country rough sleepers are threatened with fines, harassment and stigmatisation in order to ‘protect the community’ – we need to recognise rough sleepers as part of our communities.”

Image: Brighton & Hove Housing Coalition