On Wednesday there was an important debate in Westminster Hall in Parliament under the heading of Winter Homelessness Support. The people who took part in the debate included the current MP for Hastings and Rye, Sally-Ann Hart. She was the only Sussex MP who did take part and clearly her comments are relevant to all of the parts of her constituency but actually they have a relevance for the rest of Sussex. One of my friends here in Brighton who knows a great deal about homelessness is Andy Winter who is the Chief Executive of a charity called Brighton Housing Trust (or BHT) and not surprisingly over the last decade or so they have been working very hard in Hastings. Another of my friends is Chas Walker who is the Chief Executive of YMCA Downslink Group which is a youth based housing charity that began its work many years ago in Hove but has expanded and now works in Hastings as well as throughout Sussex and in parts of Surrey. My reflection on this speech from Sally-Ann Hart is that she needs to ensure that she is working closely with Andy and Chas who are both experts when it comes to housing issues and could potentially help her to achieve her objective. I have removed some of the parts of her speech that are simply applauding what she claims the Government has done as we all know that in the last 10 years her Government has done a great deal of harm for Homelessness issues. However her calls are a good starting point for some collaboration with BHT and YMCA Downslink Group.
I thank my hon. Friend Nickie Aiken for securing today’s debate. I absolutely agree with everything that she and Stephen Timms said about social housing need. Investment in social housing is absolutely imperative. A year ago, I was elected on a promise to end rough sleeping in Hastings and Rye by the end of this Parliament, and to prevent homelessness—a promise to local residents that I intend to keep.….
……In Hastings we have an acute issue with rough sleeping. The local authority has one of the highest rates of rough sleeping in our region, having increased from three in 2010 to 48 people sleeping on the streets in 2018. That increase is deeply concerning, but it is not just the raw numbers that alarm me; it is also the way in which we approach the issue. The best thing we can do is to offer rough sleepers and those registered as homeless Housing First with full wraparound support. Too often, I have heard of cases of rough sleepers being taken off the streets and put into temporary, insecure and poor quality accommodation and simply left there. I want to see a proper series of interventions that provide more secure quality accommodation, access to health services to deal with any addictions, health concerns or mental illness, and also support with skills training and employability advice to help sustain tenancies and get rough sleepers off the cold, wintry streets and back on their feet, standing tall with a future to look on with hope and pride. Too often we have sought quick wins in short-term solutions. We need to make sure that we have a long-term plan with the funding….
So I hope that on Monday or certainly by the middle of next week that Andy and Chas will either have been contacted by Sally-Ann or indeed if they are able to do so, that they contact her and arrange for a Zoom call to take place with both of them or some of their colleagues to see what could be done to give Hastings a good start to 2021. They are not the only agencies that will enable this issue to be resolved and many of them are based in Hastings. However we need to ensure that all of the Politicians in Sussex are working in a coherent way with the charities like BHT and YMCA Downslink Group.