DEMONSTRATORS gathered to call for the council to open its empty buildings all year round to help rough sleepers.

The protest, organised by Brighton and Hove Green party, was held outside the Brighton Centre on Monday.

The Greens are urging Brighton and Hove City Council to address the growing numbers of rough sleepers.

They successfully lobbied the council to open the Brighton Centre as temporary night-time accommodation and it sheltered more than 30 people during December. It closed its doors on Sunday, despite strong opposition.

David Gibson, spokesman for the Greens, said: “Almost a year after the original proposal from the Greens to open up empty buildings for use as shelters, we heard from the manager of the Brighton Centre shelter at the weekend that ‘it is possible that we have saved lives this winter’.

“For 36 local people, the shelter was a first step towards permanent accommodation and in four cases, recovery.

“It is great to hear that in such a short time the shelter achieved so much and a credit to all those working and volunteering to provide services to end homelessness.

“What we need now is a clear sense of urgency from the Labour council to provide similar services on a more permanent basis.”

The party said the council could not be complacent about the rising number of rough sleeping in the city.

Latest figures show there were 178 rough sleepers in 2017 compared with 144 in 2016. Rough sleepers need to wait an average of 12 weeks before temporary accommodation is offered to them.

Mr Gibson said: “We demand more action to end the city’s housing scandal. Green budget proposals that focused on ending rough sleeping, such as expanding Housing First and setting up council-run emergency accommodation, were voted by the other two parties.

“We are pleased to hear that the night shelter helped so many off the streets, but it took the council almost a year to get even this provisional shelter in place and then it was forced to move buildings twice.

“Work needs to start now on setting up a long-term facility that helps rough sleepers move on to supported accommodation and we must do this before the budget in April.”

Brighton and Hove City Council has been contacted for a comment.