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.
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.
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.
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.
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.