Demonstrators gathered outside Brighton and Hove Town Hall on Wednesday (6th). Later that evening they held a Mass Sleep Out to raise awareness about the problem of homelessness and inform people about the AHS (Autonomous Homeless Shelter). The decision about the sleep out came after Brighton’s squatted AHS got served with eviction papers for a court hearing.
Around 25 people arrived at 4pm, most planning to spend the night until the following morning when the council workers arrive at work. The sleep out began early so the action could be visible as they finished work. A soup kitchen was provided, serving up a hearty bean stew, home-made sour dough bread and cake for all participants. People planning to attend were encouraged to bring sleeping bags, blankets, roll mats and other relevant material. As people started turning up, council security staff came out and warned everyone not to cross the invisible line in front of the council building entrance, otherwise everyone would be moved on. Throughout the day and night many people approached the congregation to offer their support and words of encouragement.
The action effectively went off without a hitch. Unfortunately the court hearing on Thursday (7th) resulted in a fail for the AHS. They’ve lost the building behind London Road; Brighton magistrates’ court handed a possession order over to the building’s owner. The exact date they have to vacate the premises is not known yet but they will have at most a matter of weeks to find an alternative. One AHS activist said, “The current government has committed to the criminalisation of squatting - projects such as this one show that it is a vital tool for groups and individuals, especially in the face of an economic downturn, rising homelessness and cuts to key services.” Brighton & Hove has one of the highest rates for homelessness in the UK, especially given the high property prices and low average income. A spokesperson for the AHS said they would be appealing the decision.
The shelter has helped support 35 people in the last few months and is currently home to 16 people that otherwise would be sleeping rough. The AHS manifested because of a need to deal with the city’s increasing homelessness problem and the council’s disregard on the matter. An example of the council’s attitude was the closure of St. Patrick’s night shelter on the 31st January with no replacement being provided.