WITH the cost of housing the homeless during the coronavirus crisis running into the millions of pounds, people are asking “what comes next?”.

In late March, central government demanded that all councils must provide accommodation for every rough sleeper and gave the authorities money to achieve it.

Brighton and Hove City Council homed its rough sleepers, reported to number about 200, by brokering deals with hotels and guest houses who were unable to accommodate guests following the announcement of lockdown measures.

The council expects that by the end of June this would have cost £2.4 million, which equates to £12,000 per person.

Conservative councillor Mary Mears, who is the group’s spokeswoman on the housing committee, is wary of the council’s approach.

The Argus:

She said: “We understand from the coalition that they want to find permanent housing going forward.

“The problem is we have more than 9,000 on our waiting list with a five-year local connection.

“We spent some time under the previous administration revamping our allocation policy and in the allocation policy there needs to be a five-year local connection.

“They would have to be extremely careful that they’re not penalising people on the waiting list by moving people who have no local connection into houses.

“We need to be seriously considering how we’re going to help these people as one of the most important things is what are we doing to change their lives.”

The council is now moving the homeless out of the guest houses and hotels into university halls of residence, with the total cost rising to £3.9 million by early September.

Of those, 35 per cent do not have a “local connection”, which means they do not live or work in the city, or have any close family in the area.

When asked what the council’s long-term plans were, and what can be done about rough sleepers with no local connection, the council’s chairwoman of housing, Gill Williams, said: “We are working with partners including St Mungo’s and Arch Health to identify sustainable accommodation plans.

The Argus:

“We are looking at a range of options to meet people’s needs including helping people return to safe areas of connection, supported housing, Housing First and help to find private rented accommodation.”

Andy Winter has worked for Brighton Housing Trust since 1985.

He described what comes next as “the million dollar question”.

He said: “This is the best opportunity in a generation for a Government of any colour to once and for all see the end of people sleeping on our streets. 

“It would be cataclysmic if we lost this opportunity and saw is dozens, if not hundreds, return to the streets. 

“What is really important is that services align themselves to addressing the issues which took people onto the streets in the first place. 

“The cornerstone of all that work is addressing addictions.”

Rough sleeper thankful to have lived in a hotel during lockdown

ROUGH sleepers have been living in hotels and guest houses since lockdown began.

This has come at a cost of £2.4 million for the three months to end of June 2020, funded by central Government.

Emma, who was being homed in Brighton by the scheme, shared what it was like to be able to stay in a hotel room.

In a video posted by St Mungo’s, she said: “You don’t realise what you haven’t got until you’ve literally got nothing and you’ve been really helpful.

The Argus:

“I just want to thank Brighton Council really and obviously St Mungo’s because you’ve all been great.

“The staff are on call 24 hours so if there’s any problems, the staff try their best to sort it out.

“If they can’t then they’ll find a way to sort it out.

“I’m just really grateful for the time I’ve had here to be fair.”

A report to senior councillors said the bill for housing up to 400 people who were homeless during the coronavirus lockdown would be £2.4 million by the end of next month.

This includes the costs of accommodation, security, support, cleaning, food and laundry and equates to £184,600 per week.

Currently the council is paying 12 hotels and guest houses for en-suite rooms.

Hotels are being paid on average £32 per night, the council did not say how much guest houses were being paid.

Councillor Gill Williams, the council’s chairwoman of housing, said: “The level of support we’ve set up for to keep people sleeping rough safe over the Covid-19 crisis is among the very highest in the country.

“We’ve been able to secure enough safe accommodation for everyone rough sleeping in the city.

“It has relied on working closely with our partners and it’s been inspiring to see so many organisations who have been pulling together to get where we are.”

From hotels to halls

LAST week it was announced that hundreds of rough sleepers are to be moved out of hotels and guest houses and into university halls of residence.

Some could stay at the Phoenix Brewery halls where Brighton University has 298 rooms.

A report to senior councillors said the bill for housing the homeless during the coronavirus lockdown would be £2.4 million by the end of next month.

And by early September the cost was expected to rise to £4.2 million, with the university halls expected to be cheaper than the average £32 a night being paid at the moment.