The ceiling in a block of flats used as emergency accommodation for homeless people collapsed on residents as they slept during the night.

Fire alarms sounded in the early hours of Saturday, August 26, at 17-19 Grand Parade, Brighton, after the ceiling in Room C fell on top of its occupant.

At the same time, the ceiling in a nearby communal hallway had also collapsed with hundreds of litres of water pouring through the hole.

The building’s owner, Baron Homes, has many properties across the city used by Brighton and Hove City Council as emergency accommodation for homeless people.

The Argus: The ceiling fell into the room belowThe ceiling fell into the room below (Image: Submitted)

Between January and July of this year, Nazila Blencowe's Baron Homes received £1,213,459.88 from the city council for rent and maintenance fees.

The incident has sparked calls for 17-19 Grand Parade to be shut entirely and for the city council to rethink its contract with Baron Homes.

Daniel Harris, a housing activist in the city, said: “As someone deeply involved in advocating for individuals experiencing homelessness for the past six years, it’s disheartening to witness the persistent issues plaguing the residents of 17-19 Grand Parade.

“The environment remains in a state of perpetual chaos, with ongoing disrepair, pest infestations, and the tragic occurrence of homeless deaths. For some, this accommodation represents their last hope.

The Argus: Water pouring from the ceiling in a hallwayWater pouring from the ceiling in a hallway (Image: Submitted)

“It’s abundantly clear that this building must be closed down. How many more close calls and near-tragedies must occur before the city council takes action?

“There have been countless news stories over the years and the council always says they will act. What I see is in fact, many simply turning a blind eye.”

But Baron Homes has hit back, saying it had “no reason to believe” the roof could fall in.

The Argus: 17-19 Grand Parade seen here with scaffolding outside17-19 Grand Parade seen here with scaffolding outside (Image: Google Maps)

A spokeswoman for the company said: “Following the incident at Grand Parade on August 26, we would like to apologise for the inconvenience and distress caused to the occupants affected in the building.

“We were advised on July 11 by our chartered surveyors that they were satisfied with the recent roofing repairs.

“We therefore had no reason to believe that the building had structural issues that required addressing.

“However, once we were made aware of the leaks in the building, we had between eight to ten contractors arrive at the site within an hour and the occupants affected were relocated. The roof has since been repaired and occupants have moved back in.”

Baron Homes said that its house of multiple occupancy licence has been issued by the city council meaning “regular inspections” are undertaken by the authorities at its properties.

It also said that the city council “continues to express its thanks and gratitude for the services we provide”.

The Argus: Nazila Blencowe, director of Baron HomesNazila Blencowe, director of Baron Homes (Image: The Argus)
The city council has also apologised to the six people affected by the incident.

Councillor Gill Williams, chairwoman of the city council’s housing committee, said: “We’re aware of the ceiling collapse at the building in question and are very sorry for the distress caused to those living there.

“We have been supporting all the six residents affected. Three have been moved to alternative temporary accommodation.

“The other three have had their rooms assessed to ensure safety. The necessary repairs have now been completed and we will continue to monitor conditions.

“Because of the devastating housing crisis and an acute lack of affordable housing, many people in our city face homelessness.

“We therefore use many different providers for temporary and emergency accommodation, including Baron Homes.”

The Argus: Parts of the ceiling were left dangling before hitting the floorParts of the ceiling were left dangling before hitting the floor (Image: Submitted)
It comes after The Argus revealed in April that 43 people died while homeless in Brighton and Hove last year.

Their identities remain unknown.

Of the deaths in the city, nine people died due to drugs or alcohol, four from cancer, three from a heart condition, two from an infection, one from an overdose, one from a stroke, and one by suicide.

Causes of death for the remaining people were recorded as “unknown” or “other”.

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Jim Deans, a former rough sleeper and now head of Sussex Homeless Support, said: “When people become homeless, they just want to fit in, so if they’re offered drugs they’re going to say yes,” he said.

“Drug dealers will park out the front of the hostels and beep their horn like an ice-cream van for drugs.

“People are also being released from prison straight onto the streets.

“The number of deaths is an absolute outrage and the city council is aware of the problem.”