Labour Party Conference 2019

Text: Vote for the Homelessness Motion. Image of homeless person holding placard: "Keep your coins, I want change. Text below: Rights for the homeless Now.
Created with GIMP

The Labour Party Conference passed the motion below unanimously on 25th September 2019, and the Party is now committed to the Homeless Bill of Rights.

Councillor Debs Stainforth of the East Worthing & Shoreham CLP put forward as their policy motion to the Labour Party Conference 2019 a motion in support of the Homeless Bill of Rights. The unions selected homelessness as one of their eight preferences for subjects to discuss at the Conference, and this motion was composited with other motions including those sponsored by our friends the Labour Homelessness Campaign.

Composite motion 19 now reads in part as follows:

Conference calls on the Labour Party:

• That the Labour Party adopt the Homeless Bill of Rights and thereafter in all its policies, practices and procedures that affect the homeless endeavour to comply with the letter and the spirit of the Homeless Bill of Rights, and promote it within the membership. The Homeless Bill of Rights is a compilation of basic rights drawn from European and international human rights law, but made specific to the situation of the homeless and it includes those of people in emergency and temporary accommodation and the “hidden homeless”.

This fantastic initiative has the chance of embedding the Homeless Bill of Rights and the principles behind it at the heart of the Labour Party’s policy making and possibly the next manifesto. Please support it!

The Homeless Bill of Rights was drawn up by homelessness organisations across Europe. It embodies international human rights standards in a document addressed specifically to the situation of the homeless. Including those in temporary and emergency accommodation. It has been adopted by seven European cities including Barcelona. It is a set of standards, a promise to the homeless that they are equal in dignity and respect with us all, an endeavour to make the human rights that we all have effective and real for those of us without a secure home. In international law, everyone has the human right to a home. We must make this a reality for everyone, and in the meantime we stand against the criminalisation and stigmatisation of the homeless.

Brighton & Hove Full Council 25th July 2019

The Chair of the Brighton & Hove Housing Coalition, Barry Hughes, presented the petition to the full Council meeting on 25th July 2019. He made a brilliant speech, which you may see at 1:50 on the recording of the meeting here. Councillor John Allcock, Chair of the Housing and New Homes Committee, spoke powerfully to support the Homeless Bill of Rights, as did Amy Heley of the Green Party and (more cautiously) Mary Mears of the Conservatives; it was sent to the Housing and New Homes Committee on 18th September for a decision on adoption.

We shall be there!

Presenting the Petition to Brighton & Hove City Council

The Brighton & Hove Housing Coalition, in conjunction with FEANTSA, Housing Rights Watch and Just Fair, will be presenting its petition to adopt the Homeless Bill of Rights to the City Council meeting on Thursday 25th July 2019.

Our members and supporters are asked to gather outside Hove Town Hall for 2:30PM, to lobby councillors as they go into the start of the meeting at 3pm.

Please contact your friends and allies in the struggle to attend if they can and to spread the news!

If you are resident in Brighton & Hove, please also email your councillors and ask them to support the unconditional adoption of the Homeless Bill of Rights as a statement of principles for the Council to work towards and abide by.

Also present will be the installation commemorating the homeless dead of 2018, as set out in an earlier post.

Koldo Casla, Policy Director of Just Fair, says:

The reality of homelessness is the UK is a painful reminder of why, now more than ever, we need to secure the right to adequate housing and other social rights in law and practice. As observed by the UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing, Leilani Farha, “effective implementation of the right to adequate housing cannot be achieved without the proactive involvement of local and subnational governments.” We very much welcome the Homeless Bill of Rights of Brighton & Hove. Even within the limits of diminishing resources, local authorities have the opportunity and responsibility to fulfil the right to adequate housing and other human rights for all without discrimination of any kind.

Freek Spinnewijn, Director of FEANTSA, has called on the Leader of the Council to support it in a letter:

On behalf of FEANTSA, the European Federation of National Organisations Working with the Homeless, I hereby invite you to endorse the Homeless Bill of Rights in Brighton and Hove. …

We at FEANTSA strongly believe that cities must play a critical role in recognising and vindicating the human rights of all citizens. Endorsing the bill entails an explicit support by the city for the European campaign and the start of a change of policy in the city around homelessness.

We encourage the City of Brighton and Hove to commit to the Homeless Bill of Rights and for it to be translated into firm actions to promote and respect its values.

Art installation marks deaths of homeless in Brighton and Hove

Photo of art installation consisting of a set of painted pillows laid out like tombstones, each with the face of a homeless person who had died over the last year.
Dinah Lee Morgan brought her installation Brighton 2018-2019: In Memory of Our Dead Homeless to Jubilee Square during the 2019 Brighton Festival. Photo credit Nammie Matthews

Lewes-based artist and sculptor Dinah Lee Morgan brought her installation Brighton 2018-2019: In Memory of Our Dead Homeless to Jubilee Square on Monday – a set of painted pillows laid out like tombstones for passers-by to pay their respects. Click here for the Brighton & Hove News Article.

She contacted the Coalition through our 38 degrees petition to say “Hi! It is a great thing that you are doing!” She told us about her artwork and went on, “I wondered if you wanted to use it as part of your campaign-you are very welcome to.” We certainly will, and she has agreed to set up her installtion again outside Hove Town Hall on Thursday afternoon, 25th July, when we shall be taking our petition to the full Council and asking them to adopt the Homeless Bill of Rights in full.

No-one should ever have to sleep rough

The Art/Law Network is a gathering of artists, lawyers, agitators, coming together to work and collaborate for change. Recently they published a piece about the Homeless Bill of Rights, as follows:

Redistributing the Sensible: The Brighton Homeless Bill of Rights by David Thomas

We have a homelessness crisis. You need only walk the streets of Brighton and Hove, or any city in the country, to see it. But the street homeless that you see are only the visible symptom, the intolerable crux, of the housing crisis that affects so many people. There are 5-10,000 people sleeping rough, but Shelter (2018) estimates that there are 320,000 homeless altogether counting people in hostels and temporary and emergency accommodation. Even that total doesn’t include the hidden homeless, those sleeping in crowded and unsuitable accommodation, on friend’s sofas, in cars, in boats, in tent encampments. Rough sleepers are not people suffering from some extraordinary illness or incapacity; they are you and me, they are people who have had a bit of bad luck, they are the visible sign of our disintegrating systems for supporting human beings. Their situation is appalling – according to the ONS (2018) the average age at death is 44 for men, 42 for women.

In another way, though, they are not visible at all. No-one looks at them, no-one catches their eye; most people ignore them. They are visible only in the same way as graffiti, as an irritation in the corner of the eye.

Brighton & Hove Housing Coalition is an organization of activists which tries to change the way that homeless people are seen. When our city is not treating rough sleepers as a nuisance, they still regard rough sleepers as a problem to be solved, or mitigated. We, on the other hand, argue for a different view, that of the rough sleepers themselves, trying to make the establishment see what it is like for them, to see them as people rather than problems.

So we came to launch the Homeless Bill of Rights for Brighton & Hove. It has been drawn up by European homelessness organizations, and is full of practical insights into the conditions under which rough sleepers survive. It is the outcome of a European campaign against the tendency to criminalize the homeless and to exclude them from public spaces, pushing them away out of sight. It has been signed by six European cities so far, including Barcelona. We hope that Brighton & Hove will be the first British city to adopt it.

Article 1 of the Bill of Rights is the right to housing to which this country has committed itself in international law. It must be absolutely clear that everyone already has the right to housing, and that the remainder of the Bill of Rights is necessary only insofar as we as a community have failed to implement it. Homelessness is itself a breach of fundamental rights. The other rights address the detailed experience of life on the streets and seeks to make it less unbearable and to make true the equality in dignity and rights that rough sleepers theoretically have.

For this particular struggle, human rights are a good fit. They cut through all the distinctions of domestic legislation, between those with a local connection and those without, and those who have a right to stay in the country and those who have not. Many of the people on our streets do not have immigration status; they are barred from nearly all services and are always in fear of being betrayed to the Home Office for deportation. Human rights refuse that distinction.

For Jacques Rancière, the existing arrangements in society which give everyone their place and role, and which organize and justify that allocation, amount also to a particular way of seeing, a particular arrangement of which people are heard and which are not, which are able to take part in the making of the community and which are not, who is visible and who is not. This is the situation of inequality in which we live. But it is possible to disrupt this situation, to disturb this order of the seeable and sayable, by constructing a dispute or dissensus in order to bring bringing two worlds into collision. Human rights are a writing of the community as free and equal, and they may be used to force such a collision; here, between the world where homeless people are unseen and uncounted, and the world where they are bearers of rights and dignity and speak for themselves within the community. This is what we are trying to do with the Homeless Bill of Rights, here and now in Brighton and Hove; to force a change in what may be seen and heard, a recount in the name of equality. Please support our campaign.

Sign the Petition!

Photos of a piece of street art with a homeless man holding a sign saying "Keep your coins, I want change".
By Australian street artist Meek.

Sign the Petition for Brighton & Hove City Council to sign the Homeless Bill of RIghts HERE.

Brighton & Hove is in the top ten local authorities in the country for numbers of rough sleepers. These are just the ones you can see. There are thousands more people living in tents, cars, boats, hostels, and emergency and temporary accommodation.

All people, homeless or not, are free and equal in dignity and rights. But in truth, rough sleepers are treated at best as a problem and at worst as a nuisance to be cleared away. The Homeless Bill of Rights tries to make human rights real for those of us who are unfortunate enough to be homeless, by giving them respect, dignity and help in their struggle to survive.

The most important right is the right to housing; but at the very least no-one, ever, should be forced to sleep rough.

It has been adopted by six European cities including Barcelona. We want Brighton & Hove to become the first British city to adopt the Homeless Bill of Rights.

“Law at the Margins of the City” Conference

Picture of a poster advertising the conference.

This amazing conference was held at Birkbeck College, London University, on 26th March 2019. The keynote speaker, Raquel Rolnik, is Professor at the School of Architecture and Urbanism of the University of São Paulo in Brazil, but is better known in this country as the United Nations Special Rapporteur for the Right to Housing who visited this country and excoriated the Coalition government for its failings in 2013. She wrote an article in the Independent about her visit this year.

The Conference combined academics from many areas with activists who were using the law to fight back on the ground. Among other people, the organizers invited Brighton & Hove Housing Coalition’s legal officer, David Thomas, to attend and speak about the Brighton campaign for a Homeless Bill of Rights. The event was recorded, and when a recording becomes available a link to it will be posted on this site.

David Thomas speaking at the rostrum of a conference hall.
David Thomas speaking about the Brighton Homeless Bill of Rights at the Conference.


On Sunday 28th October 2018 Brighton & Hove Housing Coalition launched the Homeless Bill of Rights, supported by FEANTSA and Just Fair.

Every Sunday at the Clocktower in the centre of Brighton a street kitchen, organized entirely by volunteer activists (some of them in the Coalition), provides hot and cold food and essential supplies for free to rough sleepers and all comers. We started the launch there, with a few words and a stall.

Photo of David Thomas speaking at the Clocktower
David Thomas speaking at the Clocktower at the launch
David Thomas, John Hadman and Clara Astill of the Coalition, Lloyd Russell-Moyle MP of Brighton Kemptown, and Maria Aldanas of FEANTSA at the Clocktower.
From left to right, David Thomas, John Hadman and Clara Astill of the Coalition, Lloyd Russell-Moyle MP of Brighton Kemptown, and Maria Aldanas of FEANTSA at the Clocktower

We had messages of support from all three of the local MPs, from many councillors and from Dr Tim Worthley, who runs the local GP practice specialising in the homeless. We then moved up the road with many of the homeless people to the Brighthelm Centre, where we held the formal launch. Councillor Robert Nemeth and many of the councillor candidates for the May 2019 council elections were among about 100 people present.

Picture of a hall with a panel of six at the rear of the picture and chairs with people in them in the foreground.
The Brighthelm Centre

The Coalition chair, Steve Parry, chaired the meeting. Maria Aldanas of FEANTSA spoke, as did Jamie Burton, the chair of Just Fair. Coaltion members and homelessness campaigners David Thomas, Nichole Brennan, Maria Garrett-Gotch, and John Hadman spoke, as did Jim Deans of Sussex Homeless Support.

Picture of a man and a woman behind the table at the top of the hall
Maria Jose Aldanas of FEANTSA and Jamie Burton of Just Fair. Photo credit Norman Miller
Picture of Nichole Brennan standing next to a poster containing the Homeless Bill of Rights
Nichole Brennan. Photo credit Norman Miller

The home page image on this website is from the launch. It was a success. A short video of the launch is here; and the full proceedings were video-recorded – the recording is here. Since then we have been working hard, mainly in the political parties, and both the Green Party and the Labour Party have put a Homeless Bill of Rights in their election manifestos. We also have some indications from the Conservatives that at least they will not oppose it. There is much work still to be done, but we hope to be able to get it adopted by the City soon after the election.

The danger of course is that this will go the way of many other resolutions, simply adopted by the Council and then forgotten. Part of the work needed to prevent that is organizing in civil society, getting bodies such as traders’ associations, businesses, football clubs and so forth to adopt the Bill of Rights and to work out their own campaigns around specific articles. But also we are going to hold the Council to account. We have said and will go on saying that every single policy, practice or procedure of the local authority that affects homeless people should be scrutinised for compliance. We will hold an annual public audit of the Council’s compliance with the Homeless Bill of Rights, inviting everyone with a stake in it to participate. And we will report further progress through this blog.

Picture of 14 men and women, Labour party councillor candidates, holding a "Support the Brighton Homeless Bill of Rights" banner.
Labour party councillor candidates at the Launch.