THE city council hopes to move a large number of rough sleepers who are currently being housed in Eastbourne back to Brighton “as soon as we can”.

It says the 130 people currently accommodated in Eastbourne “all have on-site security and our Welfare Officers are also providing weekly on-site support at hotels where it is Covid-safe to do so.”

They took part in a discussion at Eastbourne Borough Council’s Scrutiny Committee yesterday about homeless people accommodated in the borough during the Covid pandemic.

Councillor David Gibson, joint chair of housing, was joined by Executive Director for Housing, Neighbourhoods & Communities Rachel Sharpe and Assistant Director for Housing Martin Reid at the committee.

A spokesman said: “We’ve been in regular contact with colleagues in local authorities where we’ve placed homeless people and are working with colleagues in Eastbourne.

Throughout the pandemic, we’ve worked with health and voluntary sector partners to provide safe, self-contained accommodation and support for around 400 additional people at any one time. 

It means we currently have around 1,850 households in emergency and temporary accommodation in total.

Our priority is always to accommodate people in Brighton & Hove, but unfortunately not all of that capacity is within the city. 

A lot of larger councils are facing the same challenges and need to place homeless households in other areas. 

We’re currently accommodating around 130 people in Eastbourne. All have on-site security and our Welfare Officers are also providing weekly on-site support at hotels where it is Covid-safe to do so. 

We are moving people back to the city as soon as we can but people become homeless everyday, adding to the pressure on all our emergency accommodation.

Over the last 12 months, we have worked very hard to secure a variety of accommodation, including hotels and university accommodation in the city.

We have recently secured another 90 rooms in hotel accommodation, which has helped us move more people back to the city.

We are working with all households in emergency accommodation on their move-on plan and have supported more than 250 people to move on, with most successfully rehoused in more stable housing. 

However, in recent weeks our rate of people moving on has slowed and the number of new rough sleepers found in the city has increased back to pre-pandemic levels.

We’ve secured extra government funding to provide more long-term accommodation and support, but the shortage of suitable housing options and staffing required to support moves means we’re still facing a huge challenge to move people on successfully.”

Keeping people safe

Councillor David Gibson, joint chair of the Housing Committee, said: “We appreciate that accommodating homeless people outside the city is far from ideal and our policy is to house in the city, and prioritise those with greatest needs for housing in the city.

“We will always prefer to keep people in the city and officers have done brilliantly to secure a lot of extra accommodation here in the past 12 months. 

“However, given the numbers of people we’re supporting, and the slow down of our move on placements over the last six weeks, it’s sadly not always possible. 

“These are unprecedented times and we are rightly proud of the support we’ve been able to offer homeless people to keep them safe through the pandemic. 

“It has led to Brighton & Hove having the largest decrease of people sleeping rough in the country outside London, and it will make a lasting difference to the lives of many people. 

“We are also proud that we expanding our supply of housing first accommodation and support beyond the funds allowed by the government. 

“This will be a step change in provision which will rescues many more people from long term ‘revolving door’ homelessness. 

“By the end of next year, we should have 60 housing first placements compared with 22 at the beginning of this year.

“The current pressures facing Brighton & Hove need to be seen as part of a wider problem facing a number of local authorities in the region and which we all need to work with government to resolve together. 

“Unless we are supported more by government to rapidly increase the supply of affordable housing we are likely at best to be running to stand still.”