A LOCAL group has started an email campaign calling on councillors to adopt the Homeless Bill of Rights.

Brighton and Hove Housing Coalition’s move comes almost two years after a 2,500-signature petition asking the council to formally adopt the Bill of Rights was welcomed by all parties.

The Housing Coalition said that both the Labour and Green local election manifestos in May 2019 pledged to adopt the document.

On Thursday, Brighton and Hove City Council will be asked to use the Homeless Bill of Rights as the “standard” for its policies and practices.

The subject came up last week at a meeting of the council’s Housing Committee when two members – Labour councillor Peter Atkinson and Conservative councillor Mary Mears – shared their reservations.

They were concerned that adopting the Homeless Bill of Rights would legitimise tents on the streets and begging.

Housing Coalition chairman Barry Hughes said that the Vagrancy Act covered these issues and the Bill of Rights did not encourage begging or homelessness.

Mr Hughes said: “It does not in any way endorse aggressive begging or indeed for homeless people to need to beg.

“And it is always clear that it operates within the existing law – otherwise the lawyers would have objected.

“What it does say is that if a homeless person has to beg for reasons of survival, they should not be criminalised. Criminalising them is pointless and cruel.

“What the Homeless Bill of Rights is fundamentally about is making sure that if and when people are driven into rough sleeping, they are not automatically treated as if they are a nuisance or a problem or drug-users or sources of anti-social behaviour or criminals.

“But that instead they are treated as people, equal in rights and dignity with the rest of us.”

The Argus: Concerns have been raised about begging in BrightonConcerns have been raised about begging in Brighton

If adopted, the Homeless Bill of Rights would commit the council to ensuring the right to:

  • housing
  • shelter
  • use of public space to move freely and rest
  • equal treatment
  • a postal address
  • sanitary facilities – running water, toilets, showers
  • use of emergency services
  • a vote
  • data protection
  • privacy
  • survival practices – to seek support through begging or foraging
  • respect for personal property – to have tents and sleeping bags left and not removed or thrown away
  • life

Under the government’s “Everyone In” policy, the council has housed more than 360 people who were rough sleeping, in dormitory accommodation or at risk of rough sleeping during the coronavirus pandemic.

The council said that verified rough sleepers would be housed until the end of October.

Those classed as at risk of rough sleeping would be housed until Monday 21 June when face-to-face support services would be expected to reopen.

A decision is expected to be made on Thursday at a virtual meeting of the full council.

The meeting is due to start at 4.30pm and to be webcast on the council’s website.